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The greatest risk of having X-rays during pregnancy is related to the chances of causing genetic defects in the fetus, which can result in disease or malformations. However, this problem is rare because a very high amount of radiation is required to cause changes in the fetus.
Generally, the maximum recommended radiation during pregnancy is 5 rads or 5000 millirads, which is the unit used to measure the amount of radiation absorbed, because from this value the fetus may undergo changes.
However, most exams that use X-rays are far from reaching the maximum value, being considered extremely safe, especially if only 1 to 2 exams are performed during pregnancy.
Table of radiation by X-ray type
Depending on the location of the body where the X-ray is taken, the amount of radiation varies:
|X-ray exam location||Exam radiation amount (millirads)||How many X-rays can a pregnant woman have?|
|Mouth X-Ray||0, 1||50 thousand|
|Skull X-Ray||0, 05||100 thousand|
|Chest X-Ray||200 to 700||7 to 25|
|Abdominal X-Ray||150 to 400||12 to 33|
|X-Ray of Cervical Spine||2||2500|
|X-ray of the Thoracic Spine||9||550|
|Lumbar Spine X-ray||200 to 1000||5 to 25|
|Hip X-Ray||110 to 400||12 to 40|
|Breast X-ray (mammography)||20 to 70||70 to 250|
1000 millirads=1 rad
Thus, the pregnant woman can have an X-ray whenever it is recommended, however, it is advisable to inform the doctor about the pregnancy, so that the lead apron used for radiation protection is correctly positioned on the pregnant woman's belly.
Is it dangerous to have an X-ray without knowing you are pregnant?
In cases where the woman did not know she was pregnant and had an X-ray, the exam is also not dangerous, even in the beginning of the pregnancy when the embryo is developing.
However, it is recommended that, as soon as she discovers the pregnancy, the woman informs the obstetrician about the number of tests she has had, so that the amount of radiation already absorbed is calculated, preventing that during the rest of the pregnancy she receives more than 5 rads.
What can happen if she is exposed to more radiation than recommended
Defects and malformations that may arise in the fetus vary according to gestational age, as well as the total amount of radiation to which the pregnant woman was exposed. However, when it does occur, the main complication of radiation exposure during pregnancy is often the onset of cancer during childhood.
Thus, babies who were born after a large exposure to radiation should be evaluated frequently by the pediatrician, to identify early changes and even start some type of treatment, if necessary.