Answer to Question #7537 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation

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


I am a dermatologist and I frequently operate laser machines such as intense pulsed light, diode plus radiofrequency, and erbium YAG (yttrium aluminum garnet) laser. Is there a possible risk to my baby if I am pregnant?


First, 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 purposes should be trained on how to use it safely. Probably the most protected tissues in your body from a laser are your fetus and internal organs. Your fetus will not be at risk from your use of a laser because the laser beam cannot reach to the depth of the uterus. For your own peace of mind, however, you should be instructed on how to use the instrument.

Your fetus's developmental risks are not increased above background risks for all pregnant women, which are 3% for birth defects and 15% for miscarriage.

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 19 May 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.