HOW DOES RADIATION AFFECT YOUR BABY?

May 15, 2022 |Get Pregnant

Sophia, my cutie pie, my lovely daughter is suffering from a congenital brain defect about which I can’t do much but just daily see her with a heavy heart and do a crying spell in silence. Doctors suspected that my high exposure to radiation during the 15th week of pregnancy may have resulted in my daughter suffering from this terrible condition.

Whatever the reason may be, I don’t want others to suffer like me and my daughter but make them well-informed and convey whatever I know to let them hopefully have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

So, if you are thinking about getting pregnant or are already pregnant, I advise you, that you must become concerned about getting exposed to radiation during pregnancy and its effect on your baby. Not all radiation doses and not exposure during all pregnancy times result in giving your baby health issues, but just some specific times and doses.

I will explain everything here for your convenience, read on to know how you can get exposed to radiation during pregnancy, and how it affects your unborn baby.

How you can get exposed to radiation?

You can get exposed to radiation during the necessary medical procedures during pregnancy that can make the radiation get absorbed in your bloodstream and from there, it can pass to your developing baby in the womb.

How much does radiation affect the health of your baby?

How much this radiation affects the health of your baby depends on your pregnancy month and the amount of radiation exposure to your unborn baby. As your baby in the womb is shielded by your abdomen, it is partially protected from the radiation and as a result, the dose of radiation that reaches your baby is less than the dose you are exposed to and this little radiation exposure that the baby gets exposed to will not increase any health risks for your baby but if ever the dose is too high, it can result in an increased risk of negative effects on your unborn baby.

When your baby is more sensitive to radiation?

During some pregnancy stages, like from week 8 to week 18 which are the early developmental phases, your baby is more sensitive to radiation than at other times.

What health effects radiation can have on babies:

Radiation can severely affect the baby and can cause deformities, stunted growth, birth defects, cancer, or abnormal brain function that may be present at the time of birth or can develop later on in a baby’s life. Let’s dive deeper and explore in little detail what effects radiation can have on your baby in the womb.

Radiation can give your baby increased cancer risk:

Getting exposed to radiation before birth can increase the risk of having cancer later on in life. Your unborn baby in the womb is especially sensitive to radiation’s cancer-causing impacts. The more radiation amount your baby is exposed to and for a longer duration, the more there is a risk of cancer development in the baby later on in life.

What is the main concern for radiation exposure to your unborn baby during the first two weeks of pregnancy:

If you are exposed to radiation during the first two weeks of pregnancy, the greatest effect can be pregnancy loss or simply the death of your unborn baby which is only a few cells at that time. Damage to these cells or even a single cell can cause embryo death before even you know you are pregnant. Those who survive can have birth defects irrespective of how many doses they are exposed to.

A high dose of radiation exposure to your unborn baby during week 2 to week 18 of pregnancy can result in birth defects, especially related to the brain:

During extremely sensitive times that are from week 2 to week 18 of your pregnancy, if your unborn baby is exposed to large radiation doses, it can result in severe negative health consequences, especially for the brain.

During the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, unborn babies in the 8 to 18-week pregnancy stage in the mother’s womb were found to have a high brain damage rate that gave them lower IQs and severe mental retardation along with stunted growth with up to 4% shorter height than normal people and also an increased risk for birth defects.

After week 18 of your pregnancy and till week 25, radiation exposure is unlikely to cause any harm to your baby unless the baby receives an extremely high radiation dose:

From week 18 to 25 of pregnancy, your unborn baby in the womb can have negative health effects from radiation exposure only if the radiation dose is extremely high. This high dose can make you have signs of acute radiation syndrome, sometimes called radiation sickness.  

After the 26th pregnancy week, the radiation sensitivity of your unborn baby is just like that of a newborn baby:

After the 26th pregnancy week, your unborn baby is almost fully developed but not fully grown yet. During this time, if your baby in the womb gets exposed to radiation, the radiation effects on them are almost similar to that on the newborns meaning that birth defects are not likely to occur but only a little increase in the cancer risk is expected later on in life.

The wrap-up:

Radiation dose and pregnancy stage can determine the effects of radiation on your unborn baby. High radiation exposure in the first two weeks can result in miscarriage and from week 2 to 8, an increased risk of birth defects or restricted growth of the baby is observed.

From week 8 to 18, radiation exposure can cause an increased risk for mental disabilities, and from 18 to 25 weeks, only high-dose radiation can affect your baby. The radiation exposure during the next pregnancy weeks that are after 26 weeks is similar in effect to a newborn baby's exposure to radiation meaning no birth defect risk but little increase in cancer risk.

Always consult your doctor to get better help in understanding any risks associated with radiation exposure to your baby and make informed decisions regarding this.  

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