Answer to Question #7356 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation

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


I work around lasers all day as a provider in a medical skin clinic. I am looking to get pregnant in the next few months and am concerned about the constant scattered radiation I am exposed to and what my developing fetus could be exposed to. Can you tell me if I should take any precautions? Is this a safe environment to be working in during pregnancy?


You should know that a laser is simply a powerful beam of visible light at one frequency (monochromatic light). A laser beam can harm your eyes (retina) or skin because it can heat the skin or retina to temperatures that are damaging. Therefore, anyone using a laser for therapeutic or other purposes should be trained on how to use it safely.

Probably the tissues in your body that are most protected from a laser are your fetus and your internal organs. Your fetus will not be at risk because you are using a laser. But for your own peace of mind, you should be instructed on how to use the instrument. For the fetus, the laser beam cannot reach to the depth of the uterus from an external laser beam. So when you become pregnant your embryo will not be at risk.

If you are healthy, are young, and have no reproductive or developmental problems or family history of reproductive or developmental problems, your risk for birth defects is 3% and for miscarriage, 15%. These are background risks with which every woman begins her pregnancy. Neither you nor I can change these risks. Good luck with your future 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 12 March 2008. 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.