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.
Common radiological examinations
In general, a mother does not need to interrupt breastfeeding if she has an X-ray, MRI, CT, Angiogram, Ultrasound or Mammogram. These examinations do not affect breastfeeding. Sometimes a radiological contrast dye is used to aid the imaging. These dyes do not require a mother to interrupt breastfeeding.
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.
Inform and be informed
It is recommended for breastfeeding mothers to inform their health care providers that they are breastfeeding. 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.
For current and individual information about radiological examinations and breastfeeding, contact the Medicines Information Centres in your state.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (2018). Iodinated Contrast Media Guideline. https://www.ranzcr.com/college/document-library/ranzcr-iodinated-contrast-guidelines
Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Iodinated Contrast. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501922/?term=iodinated+contrast
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (2019). ABM Clinical Protocol #31: Radiology and nuclear medicine studies in lactating women. https://www.bfmed.org/assets/DOCUMENTS/PROTOCOLS/Protocol%20%2331%20-%20English%20Translation.pdf
And for further information:
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists website: https://www.insideradiology.com.au/
The information on this website does not replace the advice of your health care provider.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association June 2022