Answer to Question #10300 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Exposures not directly to embryo/fetus

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


Is a chest x ray during pregnancy dangerous? I am eight weeks pregnant. I have to go for this test and there is no protection like a shield or an apron available. Please tell me if it is okay to have the x ray without any shield. I hope it won’t affect my baby. I am really worried.


Your question is a simple one to answer. I understand your concern and I will try to explain why your anxiety is not warranted in your present situation.

When you receive a diagnostic x ray of your chest at a qualified facility, the x-ray exposure is not to your embryo. The "scatter" that might reach the embryo would be extremely small and would not represent an increased risk for birth defects or miscarriage to your embryo. The most important characteristic of x rays that concerns us is the dose. You may not know that we ourselves are radioactive and we are exposed to many sources of natural radiation that we cannot avoid. Your developing embryo will not receive a dose that would result in any measurable increased developmental risk.

If you are healthy, young, and have no reproductive or developmental problems or family history of reproductive or developmental problems your risk for birth defects is 3% and for miscarriage, 15%. These are background risks with which every woman begins her pregnancy. Neither you nor I can change these risks. Good luck with your pregnancy.

Robert L. Brent, MD, PhD

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 4 June 2012. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.