Information for Pregnant Women and Children

If You Are Pregnant or May Be Pregnant

In many cases, the risk of an imaging procedure to a pregnant woman and the unborn child is very small compared to the benefit of finding out about a medical concern. However, even small risks should not be taken if they are unnecessary.

Pregnant woman in dentist office discussing dental x-ray

Always tell your healthcare provider and radiologist (a medical professional certified to conduct imaging studies with radiation) if you are pregnant or think you could be pregnant. If there is any chance you could be pregnant but have not confirmed it, they may ask you to take a pregnancy test. If you are pregnant your healthcare provider may decide that it would be best to cancel the medical imaging procedure, to postpone it until after you give birth, or to modify it to reduce your exposure to radiation.

What You Should Know
  • Imaging done on most parts of the body, such as arms, legs, teeth, and chest, do not expose the unborn baby to radiation.
  • Imaging of the midsection—such as the abdomen, stomach, pelvis, lower back, or kidneys— may expose the unborn baby to radiation.
  • Doctors will assess how far along you are in your pregnancy to determine potential risks to the pregnancy.

You can discuss your options with your healthcare provider and take steps to limit your exposure to radiation.

If Your Child Needs An Imaging Procedure
Pediatrician explaining x-ray with smiling young girl

Although radiation exposure from imaging is very low, children are slightly more likely to be affected by radiation than adults.

What You Should Know

Children are still growing, and their cells are quickly dividing and multiplying, so radiation can more easily interfere with cell growth and development than in adults. Cancer caused by radiation exposure takes several years to develop. Being exposed to radiation at a young age means that they have more time for radiation exposures to add up and possibly cause cancer. It is important that imaging procedures performed on children use the least amount of radiation needed.

How To Limit Exposure

You can take these steps to limit the amount of radiation your child is exposed to:

  • Ask your healthcare provider or radiologist whether their facility lowers radiation doses when examining children, adjusted for size and age of the child.
  • Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about previous imaging your child has had to avoid repeating or unnecessary testing.
  • Ask about other imaging methods (such as ultrasound or MRI) that do not use radiation when possible.

The FDAexternal icon provides information for parents and healthcare providers about the benefits and risks of medical imaging procedures for children.

Page last reviewed: October 20, 2021