Answer to Question #11537 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Nuclear Medicine Patient Issues — Diagnostic Nuclear Medicine

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


At a children's hospital, it is sometimes necessary for parents to hold their children after the injection of radioactive materials. Does a mother who holds her child have to sign a pregnancy form? Should she be asked if she is pregnant?


There is no regulatory requirement for the mother to sign a form similar to a radiation worker's "declared pregnancy" form. Even for workers who may be exposed to radiation as part of their work, the declaration is optional. The benefits from the mother holding her child exceed the minor risk from the holding; therefore, it is not required to ask the mother if she is pregnant. That being said, I feel it is worthwhile you have information to understand the risk and the scientific background for my statements.

The emotional benefit both the mother and child receive from physical contact, especially in an unfamiliar situation, is great. The radiation dose a mother may receive to her ovaries or her embryo/fetus from holding her child who received a diagnostic procedure is very low and not a significant concern. Therefore, from a risk/benefit standpoint, the benefit greatly exceeds any risk.

The dose the mother or her embryo/fetus may receive varies depending on the radionuclide administered to the child, the chemical form of the radiopharmaceutical, and the activity administered, along with the standard principles of time, distance, and shielding. Time is dependent on how long the child is held. Distance can vary if the child is being held close or jiggled on the knees. Shielding is provided by the child's body and the mother's body.

With all these variables, it is impossible to estimate the dose the mother or embryo/fetus may receive; however, it is clear the dose is significantly less than (at most a few percent of) the dose received by the child from the radiopharmaceutical administered. The amount is a fraction of dose of concern to an embryo/fetus.

Victoria Morris, MS, CHP

Answer posted on 4 April 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.