One of the many concerns expectant mothers have is whether or not certain medical tests, like MRIs, are safe for their baby. While many pregnant women believe they should refrain from these scans to ensure that no harm is done to the fetus and its development in the first trimester, a new study found that there are no increased risks of birth defects from standard MRIs that are taken early in pregnancy.
Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada conducted a study to determine the safety of both mother and fetus when MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) are taken.
MRIs are assumed to be safe for the baby during the second and third trimesters, with many doctors prescribing them when necessary throughout a woman's pregnancy. However, there have been no studies that confirm the safety of these tests when it comes to a growing fetus early on.
Led by Joel G. Ray, M.D., the researchers analyzed data from over one million pregnancies where the mother delivered the baby at 39 weeks on average between April 2003 and March 2015.
The researchers studied the data from women who had MRIs in their first trimesters as well as those who did not, and followed their children up to the age of four.
Published in the journal JAMA, the study concluded that it is in fact safe for pregnant women to undergo an MRI without a contrast agent. The standard MRI test was not linked to increases of any birth detect, having a stillbirth, death or other problems in early childhood, such as cancer or hearing loss.
However, the researchers also looked at the effects of gadolinium-enhanced MRIs during pregnancy and found that this was not the case.
Gadolinium is an intravenous contrast agent used in some MRIs that make it easier to see internal structures like organs, tissues and blood vessels.
The researchers compared the health risk of those who had an MRI with gadolinium at any point during their pregnancy compared with those who did not have any MRIs. In this study, they found there was a higher risk of stillbirth and death.
Even so, the risk was only slightly higher, with the risk of stillbirth being one in 50. However, the researchers did find that gadolinium MRIs were linked to a higher increase of a skin or rheumatological condition among babies in the study.
The researchers were also able to identify just how many women are ordered MRI testing when pregnant. One in every 250 pregnant women in Ontario was found to go for the scan at some point in her pregnancy, with one in every 1,200 having one done in the first trimester.
More studies about MRIs and pregnancy need to be conducted to get a clear picture of the safety risks, but for now, expecting mothers who are required the scans should make sure they are given without contrast.
Source: St. Michael's Hospital
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