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Pregnancy & Children

1. Can I undergo X ray investigations while I am pregnant?

Yes, but with certain precautions. The aim is to minimize exposure of the unborn child. The unborn child is considered to be more sensitive than adults or children to potential adverse radiation effects. For many investigations such as X ray examinations of the head (including dental X rays), chest and limbs, where the unborn child is not in the direct X ray beam, the dose to the unborn child would be very low. These investigations can be conducted without concern provided there is medical justification. With these procedures the radiographer or technologist might provide you with some shielding to cover your pelvic region just as an added precaution.
If a procedure is being considered in which the pelvic region and the unborn child will be in the direct path of the X ray beam, especially fluoroscopy or CT, which can produce a higher dose than plain X ray examinations, the doctor might consider delaying the procedure, using an alternative investigation such as ultrasound, or taking special actions to keep the dose to the unborn child as low as possible when the procedure is essential to the mother’s health. If you have additional questions, discuss these with your doctor.

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2. How long after radioiodine treatment should I wait before getting pregnant?

Recommendations are to avoid pregnancy for at least 6 months following radioiodine treatment, to stabilise the maternal thyroid status. In the absence of existing evidence, however, as a safety measure men are advised to avoid fathering a child for several months following radioiodine therapy.

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3. Can I breast feed following radio-iodine treatment?

Breast feeding must stop before starting radio-iodine treatment as there is a risk of damaging the infant’s thyroid causing permanent hypothyroidism and increasing the risk of thyroid cancer [see link »].

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4. Can a young person undergo radioiodine treatment for thyrotoxicosis?

Radioiodine may be given to patients of any age but is less frequently given to children under 10. Long term follow-up of children who have been treated with radioiodine (I-131) for Graves’ disease has not shown any adverse effects such as thyroid cancer, leukaemia or congenital malformation in subsequent offspring.

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5. Can a pregnant patient receive radiotherapy?

Cancers located away from the pelvis may be treated by radiotherapy. Cancers in the pelvis will require careful consideration. The options of whether to proceed with radiotherapy, delay the treatment until the child is born, terminate pregnancy, or use alternative treatment should be discussed by the patient together with the radiation oncologist. The patient should always discuss these issues with the radiation oncologist.

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6. Can I undergo a CT scan while I am pregnant?

CT scan in pregnancy is not forbidden, but if the same information can be obtained from another examination that does not require the use of ionizing radiation, it should be preferred.The main concern is for examinations that require exposure of the fetus (lower abdomen) by the primary beam. For examinations remote from the fetal area, the scattered radiation dose to the fetus will be quite small in a properly conducted examination. The aim is to minimize exposure of the unborn child because it is considered to be more sensitive than adults or older children to potential adverse radiation effects. For many examinations such as CT of the head (including dental CT scans), chest and limbs, where the unborn child is not in the direct X ray beam, the dose to the unborn child can be very low. These examinations can be conducted provided there is medical justification.

If a CT examination requires direct exposure of the pelvic region and the unborn child will be in the direct path of the X ray beam, the examination may still be possible if it is essential to save life or is justified on special consideration of risks and benefits. The doctor might consider delaying the CT examination or using an alternative examination such as ultrasound or MRI.

If CT examination is duly justified, then every effort should be made to optimize so as to perform the examination with minimal radiation dose to the fetus e.g. choosing lower exposure factors and providing shielding where appropriate.

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7. Is it important to know if I am pregnant for undergoing a CT scan?

Yes. For any examination involving direct exposure of the lower abdomen, pregnancy should be ruled out or pregnancy status verified for justification. As mentioned in question 6 above, the unborn child is more sensitive to radiation than adults or older children.

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8. Should I be concerned about radiation if my child has been prescribed a CT?

Not really if the examination has been fully justified based on risk and benefit considerations. But it is necessary to establish this by discussion with the doctor why your child needs the CT scan and why it cannot be replaced by another examination like ultrasound or MRI. You might also bring a card for the doctor to write how much dose was given in the CT examination, such as the one that can be downloaded from image gently website. It is important that children get as little radiation exposure as possible because they are more sensitive to radiation than adults and they have a longer life expectancy.

For more information as to what parents should know about CT scans for children »

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9. Should I be concerned about radiation if my child has been prescribed an interventional procedure?

Not really based on radiation risk alone as the benefit of the procedure may overweigh the risks. Thus the issue is how much benefit is expected and to rule out if another procedure that does not involve ionizing radiation can serve the purpose.You might also bring a card for the doctor to write how much dose was given in the interventional procedure.

For more information as to what parents should know about medical radiation safety in paediatric interventional radiology »

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For more details about radiation safety in paediatric imaging »



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