The body of a pregnant woman goes through a host of changes during the period of nine months, with anatomical and endocrinal changes occurring with the development of the foetus inside the body. And there are myths that have developed around the dos and don’ts to be followed during this time. Whether or not x-ray during pregnancy can be harmful, is one such myth.
The reason why people are anxious about x-ray during pregnancy is the reason that it exposes the body to radiation at a very delicate stage of development. While it is best to avoid x-ray, the radiation is minimum and cannot cause damage to the woman or her baby. Should the situation arises where a woman has to undergo an x-ray during pregnancy, due attention must be given on how it will affect the body and professionals carrying out the x-ray should be informed of the pregnancy.
A Guide for X-ray During Pregnancy
What are X-rays?
On the most basic level, x-rays are electromagnetic radiation that can provide an image of the internal system of your body. The image is an immediate one that can help identify various diseases and illnesses like broken bones in various parts of the body, pneumonia in a chest x-rayand many other conditions. Most x-rays have a wavelength in between 0.01 to 10 nanometres, with the energy ranging between 100 eV and 100 keV. When exposed to huge quantity of x-rays, it may be considered to be carcinogenic for human beings.
If you have these or other internal issues it is vitally important that your doctor identifies and gives you proper medical treatment. While unnecessary x-rays in pregnancy are discouraged, it poses no real harm when it is necessary for medical treatment.
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X-ray during pregnancy
X-rays during pregnancy are mostly harmless, though getting x-rays done unnecessarily is advised against. X-rays when measured in rads shows us the amount of radiation absorbed by the body during one x-ray test. It is medically agreed that a pregnant woman is safe as long as she is exposed to less than 10 rads of radiation. 10 rads or more may increase the risk of eye problems in the developing foetus and also warp it’s ability to learn.
Very few x-rays actually go over the 10 rads threshold. A chest x-ray may be measured up to 60 millirads whereas an abdominal x-ray involves 290 millirads of radiation and a CT scan involves 800 millirads of radiation exposure. Most x-rays do not affect the area of concern in a pregnant woman- only an abdominal x-ray is directly related to the foetus. A dental x-ray or an x-ray of the limbs can hardly cause any exposure to the developing baby.
Side effects of x-ray during pregnancy
The radiation exposure that the body of a pregnant woman faces due to x-rays are minimum. Even so, with new life growing within, it never hurts to be careful with regard to x-ray during pregnancy. Here are a few points to keep in mind with regard to x-ray exposure:
The benefits of x-rays should outweigh the risk
If you are medically advised to get an x-ray done, you need to make sure that there is due reason behind the suggestion. Rampant x-ray exposure is not desirable, especially in a woman with child.X-rays during pregnancy should be used to eliminate a higher risk or to diagnose a medical condition that may be potentially even more damaging to the pregnant woman or the baby growing within.Continued exposure to x-rays can cause serious damage to the developing foetus.
The threshold should not be exceeded
Any exposure to x-ray pertaining to more than 5 rads of absorption can be extremely harmful and can affect the baby adversely. While most medical examinations involving X-rays may be measured in millirads, getting the tests done over and over might increase the exposure of x-rays to the body. Getting multiple x-rays during pregnancy is not advised at all.
Professionals should be informed
In case you are pregnant and are in dire need of an x-ray, the person carrying out the test should be duly informed about the condition of your pregnancy so that he or she can take the necessary measures to avoid any extra radiation than necessary.
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Exposure should be limited
If you work in an environment that exposes you to x-rays on a daily basis, like in a diagnostic centre, talking to your supervisor to temporarily take leave from the job might be a good idea. You could take up a desk job or a different job for the few months preceding your maternity leave to make sure that your baby does not get the brunt of a potential occupational hazard.
Threat of cancer
If exposed to x-rays in huge quantities, it carries the threat of cancer. The threat is real for the pregnant woman and also extends to the baby growing inside of her.
Damage to the foetus
Extensive x-ray exposure during pregnancy can adversely affect the foetus inside her uterus. The development of the brain of the foetus may be affected, which can damage the baby’s ability to learn. More than all other systems, x-rays in pregnancy affect the nervous system of the baby and can damage the eyes on the developing stage itself.
The bottom line of carrying out x-rays during pregnancy is that the benefits should be more than the risks involved. The radiation absorbed by the body should be less, the number of X-rays performed should be in check and the heath of the mother and her baby should be prioritized while taking decisions with regard to their medical attention. While unnecessary exposure is a problem, staying away from x-ray completely may not be the right call.