Answer to Question #13196 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation

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


Can skin-tightening treatments on my belly, like radiofrequency (RF), affect the DNA of my ovules? Should I wait a certain period of time after having them, before trying to get pregnant?


Unlike ionizing radiation such as from x rays, RF exposure is nonionizing and does not affect DNA in any tissue. The only proven effect from high intensity RF exposure (above 100 kHz) is heating. When the tissue temperature is back to normal, no effect on a future pregnancy would be expected. Because high temperature can affect a fetus, avoid the treatment during pregnancy. Since usually it is not certain when pregnancy starts, to be sure, it is wise to stop treatment for a while if a pregnancy is planned.

Effects of RF exposure on health have been studied for about 70 years since the end of World War II. Established adverse health effects are stimulation of nerve and muscle contraction at low frequencies below 100 kHz, and heating effects for above 100 kHz. Low-level effects, or so called non-thermal effects, are reported but these have not proven and there are no confirmed mechanisms that might cause these effects. The application of RF diathermy (putting heat in deep tissues) for rehabilitation has been used since the late 1940s on millions of patients worldwide. More recently, skin-tightening treatment also uses heat for the beneficial effects. Ultrasound, RF, and lasers are all commonly used. Depending on the frequency and power used, the heat generated in the belly area can cause temperature to rise in the tissues. RF can heat deeper tissue layers than that of laser treatment.

Because it is a thermal treatment, the potential effects of overheating should be avoided, but no DNA damage or late health effects are expected. To avoid heating of the fetus, treatment should be avoided if pregnancy is expected. 

C-K Chou, 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 26 November 2019. 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.