Microwave Ovens and Pregnancy

by Ann Douglas

I shouldn't use my microwave when I'm trying to conceive
because the radiation is dangerous.

Microwave ovens may be powered by radiation,
but that doesn't mean that your kitchen becomes
a radioactive zone the moment you start making dinner.

"Microwave radiation is not the same as harmful radiation," explains University of Toronto physicist Jason Harlow, PhD.

Rather than falling at the high-energy end of the electromagnetic radiation band (where you'll find x-rays, for example), microwaves are found on the low-energy radio frequency band (in the same neighborhood as radio signals). 

Federal standards require microwave ovens to have two independent locking systems that halt microwave production the moment the door latch is released or the door is opened; and a monitoring system that turns off the oven in case one or both of the locking systems fail.

Of course, your microwave oven has to be working properly in order for these safety features to kick in. That's why you should avoid using a microwave oven if its door does not close firmly or is bent, warped, or otherwise damaged. Similarly, to avoid damaging your oven, you need to pay particular careful attention to the operating instructions, including that mysterious warning about not running your microwave when it's empty. "A microwave needs to have a load inside it or it becomes five times more radioactive," Harrow explains.

FACT: Microwave energy decreases dramatically as you move away from the source of radiation. A measurement taken 20 inches away from a microwave oven is approximately one one-hundredth the strength of a measured taken from 2 inches away. But even if you like to stand close to your microwave while your food is cooking, you'll only be exposed to a very low dose of radiation (far lower than the level known to be harmful to humans).

Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books and numerous other books about pregnancy and parenting.