Answer to Question #8394 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
My wife had a breast bleeding problem. She had mammography to diagnose the problem. After one week she found out that she was pregnant. Will the radiation from the mammogram cause any effect on our unborn baby ?
I understand your concern and I will try to explain why your anxiety and concern are not warranted in your present situation.
When your wife receives a diagnostic mammogram at a qualified facility, the exposure of the x rays is not to her embryo. The "scatter" that might reach the embryo would be extremely small and would not represent an increased risk for birth defects or miscarriage to her embryo. The most important characteristic of x rays that concerns us is the dose. You may not know that we ourselves are radioactive and we are exposed to many sources of natural radiation that we cannot avoid. Her developing embryo did not receive a dose that would result in any measurable increased developmental risk.
If she is healthy, is young, and has no reproductive or developmental problems or family history of reproductive or developmental problems, her risk for birth defects is 3 percent and for miscarriage, 15 percent. These are background risks with which every woman begins her pregnancy. Neither you nor I can change these risks. Good luck with her pregnancy.
Robert L. Brent, MD, PhD, DSc (Hon)