The Truth About MRI Safety During Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant and your physician recommends an MRI, your first concern is likely for your baby. MRI technicians frequently receive questions about the safety of magnetic resonance imaging, particularly when patients are early in their pregnancies.

The good news: MRIs are completely safe when you’re expecting, and while their use should be limited, you can generally follow your doctor’s recommendations with complete peace of mind. That’s the short answer.

The long answer is that MRI safety has been carefully evaluated by scientists for the last several decades. A recent 2015 study followed more than 1.4 million deliveries in Ontario from 2003 to 2015; among those deliveries were 5,654 women who’d undergone MRIs, as well as 397 women who’d undergone MRIs with gadolinium-based contrast agents (contrast agents are used to improve the diagnostic functionality of the image, and aren’t necessary in every instance).

The study showed that the women who’d received contrast-free MRIs were no more likely to experience birth defects and other pregnancy complications than those who hadn’t received MRIs. However, gadolinium MRIs did seem to raise the risks of certain skin conditions and pregnancy complications. The researchers noted that the number of “adverse events” in this group was still quite low, so the perceived risk could have been amplified by the small sample size.

What do experts say about MRIs during pregnancy?

That’s good information, but it’s a single study. What do the experts recommend?

Several reputable organizations acknowledge that MRIs are safe during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Obstetric Practice (ACOG) recommends limiting the use of gadolinium-based contrast agents, but also states that MRIs are “not not associated with risk and are the imaging techniques of choice for the pregnant patient, but they should be used prudently and only when use is expected to answer a relevant clinical question or otherwise provide medical benefit to the patient.”

The ACOG also recommends avoiding contrast agents when possible. When these agents are necessary, the organization recommends gadolinium, since the alternative—superparamagnetic iron oxide contrast—hasn’t been adequately tested for safe use in pregnancy.

Can gadolinium contrast agents reach an infant through breast milk?

As the ACOG notes, gadolinium-based agents are present in breast milk, but their presence is greatly limited by gadolinium’s water solubility. Within the first 24 hours after an MRI, less than 0.04 percent of a gadolinium contrast dose will be present in the breast milk, and the infant will absorb less than 1 percent of this amount.

This indicates that a mother can safely undergo a contrast-enhanced MRI after giving birth without interrupting her breastfeeding schedule. While you should inform your physician and imaging staff of your recent pregnancy, you can safely undergo imaging.

When you need an MRI during or after a pregnancy, you need to work with a qualified facility that will provide accurate diagnostic images and a comfortable experience at an affordable price. BestPriceMRI can help you compare facilities, explore MRI options, and answer any questions you have about the diagnostic imaging process.

To get started, or to learn more about MRIs during pregnancy, call at 888-322-7785 today.


ACR Manual on Contrast Media.ACR. American College of Radiology, 2017. PDF. 22 Sept. 2017.

Ray, Joel et. al. “Association Between MRI Exposure During Pregnancy and Fetal and Childhood Outcomes.JAMA. American Medical Assocation, 6 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2017.

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