Thursday, October 25, 2012

Backscatter and IVF

Every since we've started IVF, I avoid the backscatter machines like the plaque. Even a tiny bit of radiation is too much risk in my head. My husband does as well, but for totally different reasons. Turns out I'm not the only one: The New York Times wrote X-Ray Scans at Airports Leave Lingering Worries back in August and it seems to back up my position. Nothing really definitive, but enough to make me continue my avoidance of the backscatter machines. If you are trying IVF (or pregnant) and flying, it may be worth the read.

Interestingly enough, I almost ran into a problem with this on our return flight from India in the Amsterdam airport. They have long had scan machines* in place and from my experience, it is EXTREMELY uncommon for people to opt-out. Caused a bit of commotion last time when I was trying to opt-out and the agents were trying to convince me it was safe. I kept repeating "my doctor specifically told me NOT to go through those." I hadn't really talked to any doctor about it, but it was all I could think of at the moment. The agents then tried to explain that the metal detectors were a higher risk than the backscatter machines (I have found out since then that this is not true in cases of pregnancy; I can't vouch for other medical issues.)

The female of the duo agents finally stated "they are even safe if you are pregnant" to which I gave a notable pause. "Even IF you are pregnant? Because my doctor said NOT TO." Apparently my long pause, semi-panic attitude, and adamant stance made HER pause. "Are you pregnant?" I had to think quick. The line from GhostBusters hopped in my brain "If someone asks if you are a God - YOU SAY YES!" And so I lied. "Yes, I'm 40 years old, high risk for miscarriage, and my doctor told me not to go through those."

At this, the female agent waved off the male agent, pulled me to the side, gave me a pat-down, and said congratulations. Did I feel bad for lying? Yes. No. Maybe. That congratulations was a bit stingy, but ok. I'll take it. Way better than me worrying about the alternative.

Woman are born with a finite set of eggs. We make no  more. We have to protect what we have. There are no long term studies on the effects of these machines and in many cases they aren't calibrated/tested regularly. If something went awry, you would probably never hear about it. When you get an x-ray, even if it is faaaaarrrrrrrrr from your ovaries (like an ankle x-ray I had a few years ago), they place a little protective pad over your abdomen to protect your ovaries. As far as I'm concerned, that pad is there for a reason, and I'm not lowering my chances one single bit.

* The Amsterdam airport is said to use a different technology than the normal backscatter machines we have in the US. They call it "Security Scan" and it uses millimetre waves that bounce
off the skin and do not enter the body. To my knowledge, long term studies have not been performed on them. 


  1. Dan and I always opt out. No matter what it takes, no matter what people think, I'm not going through them.

    1. Yea, as soon as I started infertility treatments a light went off in my head "these are x-rays - they cover my ovaries whenever I get an x-ray". My husband always does the pat-down on principle. LOL.

      Amsterdam airport used to not let you opt-out, but now they do. When I went in June they didn't even blink when I said I was opting out, but they did have to scramble around to get stuff together for it.

  2. Good for you - I'm glad you opted out. I am a flight attendant and pass through airport security multiple times a day. Cabin crew - pilots and flight attendants - are exempt from those x-ray machines. Why? Repeated exposure is indeed risky. I would never do it. Make up whatever excuse works, wherever you are in the world!

  3. Interesting, I never thought about it, mind you since being in delhi there is no way I would put my baby through one so why did I put my eggs through them for so long!!! Thank you for this post!

  4. I've never even once thought about this! Thanks for your post. I'm flying in January and now I know. I would have never thought about opting out! Yikes.


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