Radiology Exams and Breastfeeding Moms, What is Safe?

From time to time a breastfeeding mother may need to have a radiological examination and she may be concerned about how it may affect breastfeeding. It’s a very valid question and at OSR, we take our patient’s and their children’s health seriously so we want our moms to have the knowledge they need to make informed decisions for themselves and their children.

According to it is perfectly safe for a breastfeeding mom to get any kind of X-ray, including dental X-rays or even chest X-rays. The radiation in an X-ray may kill off a few of the living cells in any breast milk present at the time of the scan, but it won’t expose your baby to radiation.

It’s even safe to get a mammogram, although mammograms of lactating women can be harder to read.

It is also usually fine to be exposed to “contrast dye,” which is sometimes injected before an imaging scan to help illuminate certain parts of your anatomy. It’s safe because the dye is made up of molecules that are too large to pass into breast milk.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which use magnets and no radiation, are also safe for a breastfeeding mom.

However, states if a breastfeeding mother is having a nuclear medicine scan (eg bone, VQ, myocardial perfusion or parathyroid scan), breastfeeding and close contact may need to be restricted, depending on the radiopharmaceutical used.

A radiopharmaceutical is radioactive medicine. A small amount of a radiopharmaceutical is given to a person who has a nuclear medicine scan. Depending on the radiopharmaceutical used, this makes the body slightly radioactive for a short time (usually hours to days).

In some cases it may be necessary to withhold breastfeeds for a period of time. This will depend on how long the radioactivity takes to decay naturally in the mother’s body. A mother can express beforehand and give this milk to her baby while she is waiting. During this time she can be encouraged to express and store her breastmilk for use after the withholding period, as the milk will also lose its radioactivity in this time.

Breast milk in and of itself has life saving properties that are going to protect your baby’s immune system far better then artificial milk.  The potential danger of radiation stems from the amount of radiation you have been subjected to. According to the Radiation Information Network at Idaho State University, the average person in the United States receives less than 5 REM, every year. This accumulates over time from daily exposure from small sources such as our cell phones, microwaves, airplanes, occasional x-rays and natural resources such as radon. As with most things in healthcare, the most important thing to consider when trying to decide whether or not to breastfeed after radiation exposure is weighing the benefits vs. the potential risks involved. (

It is recommended for breastfeeding mothers to inform their healthcare providers that they are breastfeeding. Make sure to let our medical team here at OSR know when you are breastfeeding as well! This will help the health care provider to tailor the examination (whenever possible) to best suit your situation. Alternative examinations which impact upon breastfeeding the least may be discussed and offered if appropriate.

Chiropractor Kailua








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