Answer to Question #12743 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Flying
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
I am currently five weeks pregnant and will be flying multiple long-haul flights when I will be seven to nine weeks pregnant. I am flying eight hours to Denmark and then eight hours to Canada and back. On my return flight back, it is two separate eight-hour flights with a 12-hour stop in Europe between the two. In all, I will have seven flights total for this trip. I will have another similar long-haul flight during my 30th week.
I am concerned about the number of airports and flights, and the duration of both trips, and ultimately the total amount of radiation that I and the baby will be exposed to on these trips.
The amount of radiation exposure from flying is significantly lower than the exposure needed to cause harmful effects to an embryo/fetus.
As noted in Hall and Giaccia (2006) and Wagner et al. (1997), the dose needed to cause harmful effects for an embryo/fetus is on the order of 100 millisievert (mSv). Radiation during commercial flight is on the order of 0.01–0.02 mSv per hour of flying time. This means you would need to fly on 1,000 trips of 10 hours each during pregnancy to receive the amount of radiation that might be harmful.
Certified Medical Health Physicist
Hall EJ, Giaccia AJ. Radiobiology for the radiologist. 6th ed. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2006.
Wagner LK, Lester RG, Saldana LR. Exposure of the pregnant patient to diagnostic radiations. 2nd ed. Madison, Wisconsin: Medical Physics Publishing; 1997.