Answer to Question #1408 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Power lines, magnets, computers, airport screening, cell phones, radar

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


I am about four-and-a-half months pregnant and I am attending school. Is using a computer every day dangerous for the baby? I'm on it from 1 to 4:15 p.m. every day for class. There are about nine computers running most of the time. What could happen to my baby? As of today I'm going to quit using the computer until I get more information.


You really should not be worried about using a computer because you are pregnant, as long as you are comfortable working, that is, you are not developing physical problems. The computer emits midrange microwave radiation, not x rays. Microwave radiation is nonionizing and, at the exposure that you receive from a computer, is not a risk for birth defects or miscarriage. If you are young and healthy and have no reproductive problems or a family history of reproductive problems, your risk for birth defects is 3% and for miscarriage is 15%. Neither you nor I can change these risks. This is the background risk for women with normal pregnancies and negative family histories. Good luck with your pregnancy.

Robert Brent, MD, 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 14 November 2001. 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.