Radiation and pregnancy: What’s dangerous and what’s not

It’s best to avoid exposure to radiation if you’re pregnant.

Radiation is a kind of energy that travels in the form of rays or particles in the air. Many kinds of materials can pick up radiation and become radioactive, meaning they can project radiation.

You are exposed to traces of radiation almost every day from natural sources like sunlight and man-made sources like X-ray tests. These sources of radiation are not harmful.

The kind of radiation that can seriously harm you comes from radiation extremes such as a nuclear power plant explosion as it exposes you to huge amounts of radiation which will harm both you and your baby.

Radiation exposure: X-ray test, air flights, and ovens

X-ray tests are usually safe for your unborn baby. However, it’s best to avoid unnecessary X-rays. Many tests are not urgent and can wait until after you give birth.

If you really need an X-ray, make sure to inform your technician that you are pregnant. You can request to have your belly covered with a lead apron during your X-ray.

Women who have to travel by plane frequently may exceed the safe limit of cosmic radiation (1 millisievert, or mSv).

Frequent low-altitude domestic flights or several high-altitude international flights may expose you to a dangerous amount of radiation. But if you only travel occasionally, there’s no need to worry.

Televisions, computers, electric blankets and ovens can emit certain amounts of radiation. Fortunately, the radiation from these electrical appliances has not been proven to cause birth defects.

Nursing mothers and radiation

A radiation emergency can expose a nursing mother to an alarming amount of radiation, thus contaminating her with radioactive material. This can get into breast milk and be passed on to her baby.

After any such exposure, it is highly recommended that the nursing mother stop breastfeeding and switch to a milk formula until she has been cleared by a health care professional.

Also, do remember to clean milk formula containers and feeding supplies with a damp cloth or clean towel before use in case they have been contaminated by the radiation.

Put the used cloth or towel in a plastic bag or other seal able container, then dispose of it safely.

If no other source of food is available at the site of the radiation emergency, continue to breastfeed. Cleanse your nipples and breasts thoroughly with soap and warm water before nursing.

The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.