Guidelines for Diagnostic Imaging During Pregnancy

The safety of pregnant women undergoing diagnostic imaging is a major concern for all who care for pregnant women. While testing and determining what is safe in pregnancy is never a pleasant experience or subject, pregnant women are always grateful for the knowledge that what they undergo is safe for both them and their baby. 

Diagnostic imaging is never encouraged unnecessarily as there can be side effects. All diagnostic imaging is used in moderation or in emergencies when there are no other options available. 

Diagnostic imaging and scans can help detect different health conditions during pregnancy, but sometimes they may also pose a risk to the baby. One should know the type of scan they are going for and make sure they adhere to any restriction or timing guidelines set by their health care provider.

The use of diagnostic imaging and scans during pregnancy can be a great way to detect any abnormalities.

The team at specialist medical diagnostic imaging has worked hard to ensure that our patients and referrers receive the best imaging services possible.

The female gynecologist near me will often recommend the following guidelines to the pregnant woman:

-No recommendation for routine imaging with ultrasound, MRI, CT

-Mammography for women older than 40 with a history of breast cancer or those with breast cancer now

-Ultrasound for those at high risk

-Invasive testing only as required

As more and more imaging procedures are being used in obstetrics, gains in early diagnosis and accurate information have been counterbalanced by the risks of exposure to ionizing radiation.  It was estimated that there would be approximately 50 million exposures to ionizing radiation among pregnant patients in the year 2010. This number includes medical radiologic studies as well as dental, therapeutic, and interventional radiology procedures.  These affect about 4 million pregnancies each year in the US alone . The risk of prenatal exposure to diagnostic radiation has generally been considered low, based on estimates derived from data gathered before the routine use of many modern imaging techniques now commonly used.

The potential risks associated with prenatal exposure to ionizing radiation include the following:

• chromosome damage and fetal death

• cancer in the fetus or child

• genetic effects

• developmental abnormalities

To minimize the risk of harm to the developing fetus, pregnant women should only undergo diagnostic imaging when it is absolutely necessary. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has developed guidelines for the use of diagnostic imaging during pregnancy. These are summarized below:

Ultimately, diagnostic imaging is key to evaluating the health and well-being of the fetus. A standard scan will provide information on fetal anatomy, activity level, breathing patterns, and will help with diagnosing birth defects.


One of the most common scans that are done during pregnancy is an ultrasound scan. Ultrasonography is one of the major diagnostic imaging techniques used in pregnancy. It has been used widely in obstetrics since the 1940s and has become an essential part of prenatal care.

An ultrasound scan is painless and harmless for both mother and fetus, although it can be uncomfortable at times for the mother. It provides valuable information about the size, position, and shape of the pregnancy organs. It also helps to diagnose any potential abnormalities in fetal development.

There are two types of scans that can be done during pregnancy. These are an ultrasound scan and a 3D scan. The 3d ultrasound scan is more accurate than the ultrasound scan. It is the most widely used diagnostic imaging in pregnancy. It provides detailed, three-dimensional images of the fetus and can be used to detect or rule out a number of abnormalities.

Ultrasound is generally considered safe for pregnant women and is the preferred imaging modality during pregnancy. It can be used to diagnose many conditions, including multiple pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, and fetal abnormalities.

Ultrasounds are not the end-all and there are limitations and even inaccuracies with the machines. For instance, cleft palates may not be picked up by ultrasound scans. As machines improve and become more accurate this will probably change but for now, there is always a level of inaccuracy involved with ultrasounds. 


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to image soft tissues, the brain, spine, musculoskeletal system, and breasts.  The use of MRI during pregnancy is considered safe if the fetus is not directly exposed to strong magnetic fields because the radiofrequency energy associated with MRI is not known to adversely affect reproductive or developmental outcomes.

However, some gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs) may cross the placenta and Gd-enhanced MRIs are discouraged in pregnant women because they temporarily concentrate Gd in the placenta and fetal tissues .  This carries a theoretical risk of toxicity for both mother and child. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about this possible risk; however, the actual risk is still unknown.

At this time, there is no evidence that other types of MRI are harmful to the developing fetus.

CT scans

Computerized tomography (CT) is a diagnostic imaging technique that uses a series of x-rays to create cross-sectional images of the body.  It is generally not recommended for use in pregnant women because of the radiation exposure.

PET scans

Positron emission tomography (PET) scanning is also not recommended for pregnant women because it involves exposure to radiation.


X-rays should only be used when absolutely necessary during pregnancy and only if the benefits outweigh the risks. Dental x-rays should be avoided if possible, and other types of x-rays should be carefully considered before being administered.

If an x-ray is necessary, shielding the fetus as much as possible is recommended. Positioning the pregnant woman so that the fetus is as far from the x-ray source as possible is also advised.

The use of radiation for medical purposes has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. While it is still considered safe for pregnant women to undergo some types of diagnostic imaging, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits before making a decision. The guidelines developed by ACOG can help healthcare providers make the best decision for each individual patient.

Ultimately, following the guidelines and guidance of your doctors for when to undergo diagnostic imaging during pregnancy is extremely important. Your doctors have the experience and knowledge to know when to best recommend each imaging procedure to suit your requirements.