Pregnancy and Radiation


Radiation: What’s dangerous and what’s not

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 (sunlight) and man-made sources (X-ray test) of radiation. These sources of radiation are not harmful. The kind of radiation that can seriously harm you comes from radiation emergencies such as a nuclear power plant explosion as they expose you to giant amounts of radiation, which may hurt you and your baby.

Radiation exposure: X-ray test, 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 after you give birth. If you really need an X-ray, make sure to inform your technician that you are pregnant. You can have your belly covered with a lead apron during your X-ray.

Women who have to travel by planes a lot may exceed the safe limit of the cosmic radiation (1 millisievert, or mSv). Frequent low-altitude domestic flights or several high-altitude international flights may exposed you to a dangerous amount of radiation. But if you only need to travel occasionally, there’s no need to worry.

Televisions, computers, electric blankets, or 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

An radiation emergency may 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 to her baby. After the exposure, it’s recommended that the nursing mother should stop breastfeeding and switch to formula until she has been checked by a health care professional.

Also, remember to clean formula containers and feeding supplies with a damp cloth or clean towel before use in case they have also been contaminated by the radiation. Put the used cloth or towel in a plastic bag or other sealable container, then put it somewhere no one would be around.

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

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

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