Pregnancy Surveillance Program

Occupational radiation exposure for a pregnant employee should be monitored to make sure the total amount of radiation exposure is under the regulatory limit. According to the National Council of Radiation Protection and Measurement (NCRP), the total dose equivalent to the embryo/fetus should not exceed 500 mRem during the length of the pregnancy. It should not exceed 50 mRem in any month during pregnancy.

Pregnancy and Radiation

  • The effect of radiation exposure during pregnancy also depends on the gestational age of the fetus. The embryo/fetus is most susceptible to radiation during organogenesis (2 to 7 weeks gestational age) and in the first trimester. The fetus is more resistant to the radiation during the second and third trimester.
  • Even though the fetus is more resistant to the radiation during the second and third trimester, a high dose of radiation may result in adverse effects including miscarriage, growth reduction, IQ reduction, and severe mental retardation.

The Pregnancy Surveillance Program at UW Health/UW Madison

This program is voluntary and confidential and your declaration can be revoked at any time.

Pregnancy Declaration Form


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Will my employer be notified after my pregnancy declaration?

No, it is confidential between a program coordinator and yourself.

After I declared my pregnancy in writing, can I revoke my declaration while still pregnant?

Yes, it is your right to declare or revoke your pregnancy declaration at any time.

Why do I need to put a supervisor name on the declaration form?

This information is important for future schedules and work adjustment if necessary.

What effect will formally declaring my pregnancy have on my job status?

You and your employer must make this decision. In general, most of the radiation performed at University of Wisconsin – Madison can continue without modification during pregnancy, and radiation worker at UW-Madison receive no detectable reading on the radiation dosimeter.

Should I leave a room during the fluoroscopy procedure because I am pregnant?

No. It is not necessary to leave a procedure room during a fluoroscopy or other diagnostic radiology procedure if you are wearing a lead apron and provided a fetal badge. Reading from a fetal badge can help determine if additional precautions would need to be taken.

Operating-room nurse and pregnant. What do I need to do to keep myself and my baby safe during my regular work?

Wear a lead apron during your work when fluoroscopy/x-ray device is used. By wearing a lead apron, it will help to minimize a radiation exposure to the fetal and will keep it within an allowable limit. Also, declare your pregnancy and get a fetal badge.

Working in a Cath Lab and pregnant. What do I need to do to keep myself and my baby safe during my regular work?

Working in cardiology or radiology does not put your baby at higher risk of birth defects as long as general radiation precautions are followed (minimizing time, increasing distance, using shielding) and exposure is kept within regulatory limits 500 mrem (5 mSv) during gestation period.

What are the safety precautions when working with iodine-131 (131I) if I am planning to become pregnant? If I am pregnant?

While not pregnant, it is OK to work with I-131 with safety precautions in place, such as gloves, gowns, face masks, and eyewear. After becoming pregnant, working with I-131 is Not recommended due to the danger of absorbing the I-131 by the Fetal Thyroid which is in the development process (about 9-11 weeks of gestation period). Follow internal guidelines and policies on how to request accommodation at work.

Is it safe for me to work with a dental handheld x-ray system (Nomad Pro 2) while pregnant?

Yes, it is safe to work with a dental handheld x-ray system during pregnancy. The regulatory limit for an occupationally exposed person in the United States is 5,000 mRem per year and to a declared pregnant occupationally exposed worker is 500 mRem per 9 months. According to some study it showed that for someone doing 100 x-rays per week for 46 weeks using a handheld unit, the radiation dose to the trunk was not measurable and dose at waist level varied from 0 to 25 mrem (0.25 mSv).

Do I need to have any special precautions when working with medical lasers (CO2 laser, Holmium:YAG or Pulse Dye) because I am pregnant?

Laser is a device that generates and emits a light in visible, infrared, or ultraviolet wavelengths. Lasers are harmful to the eyes and skin due to the high heat temperatures. The laser beam itself cannot penetrate deep into the body to cause harm to the fetus.  Follow laser safety instructions for safe use of medical lasers.

Should I worry about working around non-ionizing radiation during pregnancy?

UV is classified as Non-Ionizing Radiation, meaning the energy is insufficient to cause ionization of molecules within tissues. The sun is the largest UV emitting source. UV is split into three different regions, UVA, UVB and UVC. The difference between these three types is their energies and their ability to be absorbed by skin or other materials.

Can UVC emitting devices (fluorescent microscope, UVC lamps, etc.) be harmful to my fetus?

UVC radiation will not harm the fetus. UVC radiation does not have sufficient energy to penetrate surfaces and even the outermost (dead) layer of the skin.

Natural UVC is absorbed by the ozone layer and does not reach the skin.

What safety precautions do I need to know about nuclear medicine and radiation exposure when working around patients who had an injection for a nuclear medicine bone scan.

According to NCRP Report 124, the radiation dose from a patient receiving 20 mCi of technetium-99m (hydroxymethylene disphosphonate) (for a bone scan) within five minutes of the injection is under one one-hundredth of a millirad/hour or 9 microrad/hour (rad is a unit of radiation absorbed dose; natural background radiation exposes us to about 1 mrad each day). With that in mind, you received no measurable radiation dose and neither did the fetus.

Meeting patients who’ve had PET scans 48 hours before. Because I am pregnant what do I need to know about the exposure to the baby?

For most PET radiopharmaceuticals, the radioactivity is gone within a few hours because they have a very short half-life. The exception is fluorine-18, which would be gone in about 10 hours (half-life of about 110 minutes). At 48 hours post-injection, the radioactivity remaining in the patient would be negligible.

When working with patients who have been injected with Technetium-99m (99mTc), and I am pregnant what do I need to know about the exposure to the baby?

According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, the dose received in one hour at a distance of 0.6 m (2 feet) from a patient receiving the 99mTc MDP is about 0.06 millisieverts (mSv). The dose received for five minutes right beside the patient is about 0.02 mSv. The total estimated dose you may have received is about 0.08 mSv. 99mTc-99 emits low-energy gamma radiation and because your abdominal tissue acts as shielding by absorbing the radiation, the dose to the baby is likely between zero and 0.06 mSv.