Radiation During Pregnancy - FamilyEducation

Radiation Exposure During Pregnancy

Get tips on protecting your unborn child and yourself from radiation exposure during pregnancy.

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Radiation Protection During Pregnancy


There are two kinds of radiation exposure that pregnant women worry about. The first is called nonionizing radiation, which comes from household appliances such as microwave ovens and TV sets. The second is ionizing radiation and it comes from x-rays.
Pregnancy Facts

Indoor tanning salons darken the skin with a course of ultraviolet radiation. This radiation can cause skin cancer, premature wrinkling, sun plaques, pigment abnormalities, and eye damage, all of which are bad. If you don't mind getting any of the above, the good news is this: Indoor tanning will not hurt your baby!
The bottom line is this: Don't worry about radiation exposure from home appliances and communication equipment. The levels are so low, your baby will not be affected.

Nonionizing Radiation

These days it is impossible to avoid the radiation that comes from common appliances and communication equipment, such as microwave ovens, radios, televisions, radar, high-voltage power lines, certain burglar alarms, long-distance telephone and telegraph transmissions, electric blankets, heated water beds, taxi dispatch lines, satellite communications towers, video display terminals (VDTs), automatic garage door openers, and electric toys. There's just no way to avoid most of this.

Some research on the effects of this kind of nonionizing radiation has raised a red flag on excessive exposure. High levels of nonionizing radiation in humans has been associated with (but not scientifically proven) to cause genetic damage, spontaneous abortion, and birth defects. But the tested levels have been extremely high, far above what we are exposed to normally. You can sit two inches in front of your TV everyday all day long during your pregnancy and not worry about radiation damage to your fetus (you should be more worried about your sanity). But to err on the side of caution, you can keep your fetus out of harm's way if you…

  • Sit at least five feet away from the TV set when it's on.
  • Stand at least three feet away and to the side when your microwave is running.
  • Test for leaks in your microwave by putting a paper towel in the door and shutting it. You should not be able to pull the towel out of the door. If you can, the seals are worn and should be replaced.
  • Avoid sitting too near the back of a computer screen. Most radiation is emitted from the rear; so if your workstation puts you behind your colleague's screen, you might want to move. But keep in mind that extensive studies cannot find a definite link between working on a computer all day and birth defects.
  • Although there is no evidence that copy machines are harmful to a fetus, be cautious and limit the amount of time you spend around these machines.
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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth


Read articles and find tips on becoming pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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