Radiation is something we all try to avoid in our everyday lives. Studies link it directly to cancer, and being in areas with high radiation is not ideal for anyone, pregnant or not. Unfortunately, radiation is everywhere. The microwaves, radios, and medical equipment many of us used every day emit radiation in one form or another. During your pregnancy, you should be extra careful about the environmental factors you submit your body to, as anything you come into contact with could go straight to your womb. However, you probably don’t want to throw away your microwave and radio, so it’s important to know how much radiation is too much. A recent study was designed to find out whether or not minimal radiation had any affect on developing babies.

The radiation most of us experience in our everyday lives is called nonionizing radiation. The results of the study showed that this type of radiation is completely harmless during pregnancy. Even women who work in radiation centers to treat cancer patients are at a very low risk for any negative side effects as long as they monitor their exposure. Your microwave, cell phone, and the scanner you walk through at the airport will not cause your baby any harm, as long as you don’t expose yourself more than the average person would.

Ionizing radiation on the other hand can have seriously negative effects on you and your growing baby. Ionizing radiation is the type of radiation that occurs in nuclear reactions, so your chances of running into it on a normal day are extremely low. Ionizing radiation can cause mutations in fetuses, spontaneous abortion, mental retardation, and growth restriction. Obviously, these side effects are serious and should be avoided at all costs.

If you’re confused about the difference between ionizing and nonionizing radiation, you should speak with your health care provider about the likelihood of encountering either. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the radiation you come into contact with in your daily routine is nonionizing, but that’s not to say it’s completely harmless. Standing in front of your microwave for the entire duration of your pregnancy could have seriously negative side effects, but it’s probably not what you have on your agenda. On the other hand, heating up a pop tart every now and then in your microwave will not have negative side effects on your baby.

Source: PM Williams et al: Health Effects of Prenatal Radiation Exposure. American Family Physician Volume 82 Issue 5 pp. 488-493 September 2010