Answer to Question #11436 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Radiation workers/medical technicians

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


I am a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit. Our neonates receive many portable x rays. We are often asked to assist with holding the babies during x rays such as left lateral decubitus films where the baby is on his or her side. I was one or two weeks pregnant when I assisted with holding an infant for this procedure. I was wearing a lead apron, but I was in the direct field of the x-ray beam. Is there a risk to my baby?


There is no risk to your baby from the radiation exposure (if any) received from those films.

I offer that answer for four reasons:

  1. The radiation exposure to the neonate from x rays is quite low. Obviously, enough x rays are needed to get a good-quality image, but because the baby is so small, not much radiation is needed.
  2. Although you were standing in the direction the primary beam was pointing, it's likely that the neonate and film were between your abdomen and the x-ray beam. If that is the case, then you were primarily exposed to scattered radiation that would be of lesser energy than the primary beam.
  3. If you were exposed only to scattered radiation, the lead apron stops nearly all of it. However, if you were exposed to the primary beam, the lead apron still would stop at least 95% of the radiation, leaving little to penetrate the apron.
  4. If anything did get through the lead apron, your abdominal tissue provides another "shield" for your baby.

Based on these points and the information you provided, there is no risk to your baby from the radiation exposure, if any.

Kelly Classic
Certified Medical Health Physicist

Answer posted on 17 January 2016. 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.