Answer to Question #11869 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Conception after exposures

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


I have received several dozen abdominal x rays. My doctors said that because of this, getting pregnant would be a challenge. Is this true?


Based on current scientific information, it doesn't seem likely that the x rays you received would cause an issue if you are trying to get pregnant.

The radiation dose from an abdominal x ray is pretty small, and the dose to the ovaries from an abdominal x ray is even smaller since the other tissues in your abdomen absorb a lot of the x rays before they get to the ovaries.

Based on published information (Mettler and Upton 1995, Wagner et al. 1997), you would need to undergo, at a minimum, 6,000 abdominal x rays before there might be reduced ovarian function; another estimate suggests it would take nearly 10 times that. It takes a significant amount of radiation to cause ovarian impairment.

It is not likely that the radiation to the ovaries from a few dozen abdominal x rays could make getting pregnant a challenge.

Kelly Classic
Certified Medical Health Physicist

Mettler FA, Upton AC. Medical effects of ionizing radiation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company; 1995.

Wagner LK, Lester RG, Saldana LR. Exposure of the pregnant patient to diagnostic radiations. 2nd ed. Madison, WI: Medical Physics Publishing; 1997.

Answer posted on 1 February 2017. 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.