You instinctively know how important it is to protect your baby, starting when you are pregnant.Â This also means you have to protect yourself.Â You have always heard radiation is bad, but do you really understand what it is or when you may be exposed?
Radiation is a kind of energy that travels through space and can go through various materials.Â There are two types: ionizing and non-ionizing.
Ionizing radiation has enough energy to cause obvious damage when passing through living matter, and is thought to be the most dangerous type.Â It is formed when unstable radioactive atoms give off radiation in the form of charged ions.Â No amount of exposure is actually safe, and it accumulates for your entire life.Â This means if you get a large amount one time it is dangerous, but so are very small amounts gradually over a long time.
Ionizing radiation can cause cancer, cell damage, affect the brain development of your baby and cause birth defects.Â Examples of where you may be exposed include airport scanners, x-rays, mammograms, CT scans, PET scans, nuclear power plant leakage, and natural sources in the environment in small amounts.Â Flying in an airplane causes some radiation exposure.
The other type of radiation is non-ionizing.Â Examples include light, microwaves, radio waves, and power lines. Â They are also known as electromagnetic fields (EMF).Â Places you may receive this type of exposure include ultrasound, MRI scans, microwave ovens, your computer, cell phone, land-based portable phones, wireless internet, electric devices, and electric wiring.
When non-ionizing radiation passes through matter, it only has enough energy for excitation.Â It is considered safer than ionizing, but is does cause biological effects. It can interfere with the functioning of the central nervous system, and it can cause heating effects and non-heating effects.Â These effects can be physiological, biochemical or behavioral changes caused to an organism, tissue or cell.Â As you can see, it is complex and still not well understood.
Both kinds of radiation are dangerous.Â The damage may not show up for 10 years or more, and by then it is too late. Â Children are even more sensitive to this kind of damage.
How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Unborn Child?
Avoid any unnecessary medical tests such as x-rays, CT or MRI scans.Â Always opt-out of being scanned at the airport, and avoid any unnecessary flights. Â Leave the room when a microwave oven is on, or avoid using it altogether.
For cell phones and cordless phones, the most conservative approach would be to avoid using them at all when you are pregnant.Â At least spend less time on them.Â Use the speakerphone whenever possible, or use a wired headset, ideally an air tube type.Â Avoid calls inside buildings and vehicles, and only make calls where reception is good (full bars).Â Also, limit your exposure to WiFi. Â It is much safer to use an Ethernet cable.
Your body usually does an excellent job of protecting your baby from small amounts of radiation, and usually no harm is done that we can detect.Â But there is much we do not understand and do not know how to look for.Â Because of this, it is important to avoid radiation whenever possible, and to do this you must understand how you may be exposed.Â Then you can decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.Â Ultimately this is your informed decision.