Magnetic resonance imaging is now considered one of the most accurate and safest imaging methods, which make it possible to diagnose many pathologies, diseases and disorders in the human body.

But many questions arise when MRI is prescribed during pregnancy.

Is it possible to do an MRI during pregnancy?

In what cases is diagnosis necessary?

How safe is MRI with contrast?

Family medicine doctor Krystyna Shevchenko explains what MRI can be done during pregnancy and in which cases it is necessary. 

How safe is MRI during pregnancy?

First of all, it is worth reminding that MRI, unlike X-ray or computer tomography, is not based on the use of harmful X-ray radiation.

Instead, radio waves and a strong magnetic field are used in diagnostics. 

One of the most common and recommended instrumental diagnostics for pregnant women is ultrasound (ultrasound examination), but magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be an excellent addition to it.

For the first time, MRI was performed on a pregnant woman in 1983 to assess the anatomy of the pelvis and the structure of the placenta.

Today, the dynamic development of this visualization method has significantly expanded the range of indications for prenatal diagnosis.

MRI is a non-invasive and safe research method due to the absence of ionizing radiation;

makes it possible to analyze the morphology of the fetus and placenta in much more detail, to assess the state of the organs of the abdominal cavity and pelvis of pregnant women.

In what cases is MRI prescribed to pregnant women.

Basic indications 

Magnetic resonance imaging during pregnancy can confirm, refute or complement the results of ultrasound.

This type of examination is especially recommended in the following cases:

  • Shallow water or high water.

  • The presence of excess weight in a pregnant woman.

  • Diagnosis of complex defects of fetal development (defects of the brain, chest and abdominal organs, syndromes of birth defects, complications of intrauterine infections).

  • Family history, for example, diabetes of the mother, previous miscarriages, the presence of congenital or genetic defects in the child's siblings.

  • Before carrying out intrauterine surgical procedures. 

  • The need for immediate surgical intervention after childbirth.

  • The need for termination of pregnancy in the presence of serious defects in the development of the fetus or pathology of the placenta. 

  • The frequency of diseases of the abdominal cavity and pelvis in pregnant women.

Magnetic resonance imaging is usually not recommended in the first trimester of pregnancy, when the mother especially needs to take care of her health and the health of the developing child.

Although there are no studies that would show the harm of MRI for the fetus, the diagnosis is not prescribed if there is no urgent need for it.

MRI can be performed absolutely safely in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

There are no proven risks of MRI for pregnant women or unborn children.

Over the past 30 years, thousands of pregnant women have had MRI scans, and no known harmful effects on the baby have been found. 

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Contraindications to magnetic resonance imaging during pregnancy

A much more serious reason why it is not possible to examine pregnant women with this method - regardless of the trimester - is the presence of metal objects and electronic devices in their body, such as:

  • artificial valves or vascular stents;

  • endoprostheses, stabilizers, implants, orthopedic screws and plates;

  • fractions, projectile fragments, metal sawdust;

  • pacemaker, cardioverter-defibrillator;

  • neurostimulator;

  • cochlear implant;

  • insulin pump.

Even permanent makeup or tattoos with metallic paints can become a problem.

The idea is that in a strong magnetic field, the metal can move or heat up, causing damage to nearby tissue.

On the other hand, electronic devices can become demagnetized, which poses an even greater risk to the person who has them permanently implanted.

Another contraindication to conducting an MRI in a pregnant patient is her possible claustrophobia, that is, the fear of closed spaces.

In any case, MRI is currently one of the best imaging methods, as it guarantees a particularly accurate diagnosis thanks to the accurate image of organs, soft tissues, bones, as well as possible pathological changes.

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Pregnancy and MRI with contrast: yes or no

And here it should be mentioned that magnetic resonance imaging with contrast cannot be performed on patients who are expecting children.

Contrast agents used during MRI contain gadolinium - a metal element that can penetrate the placenta, be stored in fetal tissues and negatively affect its development.

However, in some cases, the benefits of using contrast may outweigh the associated risks.

In such a situation, the examination time is reduced to a minimum, and after its completion, the pregnant woman needs to take an increased amount of liquid for at least 1-2 days for faster washing of the contrast from the body.

Magnetic resonance imaging does not rule out pregnancy.

However, the indications should always be taken into account - whether the MRI helps us in the diagnosis, or whether it really cannot be dispensed with.

If the necessity and benefit of MRI is questionable, it should be avoided during pregnancy.

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