MRI Contrast Agents and Breastfeeding: What To Know

Mothers who report for a scheduled MRI with a contrast agent will naturally be curious about how safe it is to resume breastfeeding just after the procedure. Should they wait a day, or two, or a week?

This is the question that a doctor asked the journal Canadian Family Physician back in 2007. Jack Newman, MD, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, responded unequivocally: Moms can breastfeed their babies as soon as they’d like after having an MRI with contrast.

Gadopentetate dimeglumine, a common contrast agent used in MRI scans, appears in such small quantities in breast milk that there’s no need to worry about its effects on a small child, Newman explained. In a study conducted by the Department of Radiology at the New York University Medical Center researchers tracked the level of gadopentetate dimeglumine in breast milk 2, 11, 17, and 24 hours after it was administered for a scan. Very small amounts of the contrast made its way into breast milk over that time period.

A later study from the University Hospital Zurich’s Department of Radiology found that only 0.04 percent of a total dose of contrast enters the breast milk. Babies who drink breast milk with that concentration of gadopentetate dimeglumine only absorb about 8 percent of that already-miniscule amount, Newman wrote. His conclusion? There’s no need to stop breastfeeding for any amount of time following a mother’s MRI with contrast.

Why the Myth of the 24-hour Waiting Period for Breastfeeding Following MRI With Contrast Endures

Why would some radiologists recommend that mothers wait 24 hours before breastfeeding after their procedure? The answer is that medicine is a living science, and not everyone keeps up with the times.

The answer is old science. That study from the NYU Medical Center we referred to before took place in 1993. While the authors noted that, “Additional data will be required before establishing definitive recommendations,” they also stated that “These results suggests that a waiting period of 24 hours, with active expression of breast milk from each breast, should provide a reasonable safety margin for allowing resumption of breast-feeding.”

The University Hospital Zurich study occurred in 2000. After establishing how low the dosage of contrast dye in breast milk actually is, the authors concluded that, “The recommendation of a 24-hour suspension of breast-feeding for lactating women should thus be reconsidered.”

And reconsidered it was. As Newman points out, the American College of Radiology made a 2001 declaration that “the available data suggest that it is safe for the mother and infant to continue breastfeeding after receiving such an agent.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Opinion on MRI Contrast Agent Safety

The FDA is conducting ongoing studies of gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs), including gadopentetate dimeglumine and others. As of this writing, the FDA’s last big news was that how the brain retains these GBCAs after use during an MRI — and found no danger whatsoever.

Given the fact that MRI contrast agents are generally safe, they don’t show up in heavy concentrations in breast milk, and babies don’t absorb very much even of those tiny concentrations, Newman concludes his article with clear guidance for mothers who wish to return to breastfeeding after an MRI with contrast: “There is no concern at all for nursing babies,” he writes.

To learn more about MRIs with or without contrast, or to schedule an appointment, call at 888-322-7785.


FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA identifies no harmful effects to date with brain retention of gadolinium-based contrast agents for MRIs; review to continue.FDA. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 22 May 2017. Web. 3 Nov. 2017.

Kubik-Huch R., “Gadopentetate dimeglumine excretion into human breast milk during lactation.PubMed. Radiology, Aug. 2000. Web. 3 Nov. 2017.

Newman, Jack. “Breastfeeding and radiologic procedures.PubMed. Canadian Family Physician, Apr. 2007. Web. 3 Nov. 2017.

Rofsky NM, JC Weinreb and AW Litt. “Quantitative analysis of gadopentetate dimeglumine excreted in breast milk.PubMed. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Jan.-Feb. 1993. Web. 3 Nov. 2017.