Electromagnetic Fields and Pregnancy

Electromagnetic Radiation and Miscarriage

Electromagnetic radiation is pervasive in industrialized cultures but it can’t be detected with the five senses. While there’s general agreement among scientists, and even from government agencies, that chronic exposure to high levels of electromagnetic radiation is not good for the health, investigations into its specific effects have been inconsistent. However, respected researchers have linked chronic exposure to strong electromagnetic fields to environmental illness and cancer.

A study out of San Francisco, and published in the journal Epidemiology, is worth paying attention to if you’re pregnant. D. K. Li and colleagues asked over 900 women less than 10 weeks into a pregnancy to wear a monitor for 24 hours to measure exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

When they compared exposure to pregnancy outcome, they found that those with higher peak exposures had an 80 percent increase in the risk of miscarriage. The risk was even higher among women with a history of recurrent pregnancy loss and/or infertility.

Why would electromagnetic radiation affect a pregnancy? Every cell in every living organism is surrounded by an electromagnetic field, and various parts of the body (e.g. organ systems, the brain) have their own electromagnetic field. The theory is that these fields play an important role in the incredibly rapid cell division and differentiation going on in a fetus, and that the relatively weak electromagnetic fields found in living organisms can be disrupted by exposure to stronger fields.

Most of us are exposed daily to electromagnetic radiation. Home appliances such as toasters, microwave ovens, TVs and vacuum cleaners give off very strong electromagnetic radiation when they’re on. The good news is that these fields drop off very quickly with distance—with most appliances there’s no significant electromagnetic field left at four feet away. Thus, one solution is to not stand near an appliance when it’s on if you’re pregnant (let someone else do the vacuuming!).

Another source of strong fields of electromagnetic radiation is computer screens and hard drives. Again, these drop off very quickly with distance, so the key is not to sit very close to these types of devices (not within two to three feet).

The third major source of electromagnetic radiation is faulty wiring in homes, and this is more pervasive than you might think. The only way to detect these fields is with a gauss meter, a handheld device that measures electromagnetic fields. Because faulty wiring can cause chronic exposure if it occurs near your desk, your favorite chair or your bed, for example, it’s smart to check your home for high electromagnetic fields whether or not you’re pregnant.

Li DK, et al, “A population-based prospective cohort study of personal exposure to magnetic fields during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage,” Epidemiology 2002;13:9-20.

Shaw GM, “Adverse human reproductive outcomes and electromagnetic fields: a brief summary of the epidemiologic literature,” Bioelectromagnetics 2001; suppl 5:S5-18.