Answer to Question #4761 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Conception after exposures

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


The first day of my last period was 5 August. On 22 August my 16-month-old had three x rays done on his face to check for a broken nose. I was in the room and helped to hold him down on the table. I was wearing a lead waist apron during the x rays. At the time, I did not know that I was pregnant. It is 5 September and I just had a positive pregnancy test over the weekend. Should I be worried about birth defects to the unborn fetus?


Your circumstances occur very commonly and it can be upsetting. But accurate information is frequently the antidote for concern. The x-ray machine uses a cone to project the radiation in a small area so that anyone holding the patient has practically no exposure to her body. You also were wearing a lead apron, so any exposure that you may have received would be insignificant with regard to affecting your fetus. Also, your embryo was only a few days old, which is a stage that is much less likely to be malformed by even a high dose of radiation. So your reproductive risks have not changed following your experience in the x-ray department.

If you have no personal or family history of reproductive or developmental problems you began your pregnancy with a 3% risk for birth defects and a 15% risk for miscarriage. Neither you nor I can change these background risks. Good luck with your pregnancy.

Thank you for contacting the Health Physics Society website ATE feature.

Robert L. Brent, MD, PhD, Dsc (Hon)

Answer posted on 7 September 2005. 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.