What do airport security scanners normally detect?

Airport Security Scanners and Pregnancy: Will You Go?

Security checks at airports have become strict regulations in the UA after the September 11 attacks, and the threat of terrorist attacks around the world is increasing


Airport security checkpoints have become strict regulations after the 9/11 attacks in the United States, and the threat of terrorist attacks around the world is growing all the time. Governments and airport security agencies ensure that no one is exempted from rigorous checks, and body scanners are the latest step towards foolproof security at airports.

When you're pregnant, traveling on an airplane can be especially stressful due to security checkpoints and body scanners. There is a fear that the radiation waves from the scanners could harm the baby inside you. Read here to learn more about the scanners and how they affect your pregnancy.

What are airport scanners?

Airport scanners are the most advanced screening technology to detect potential threats hidden in a person's body or clothing. It detects both metallic and non-metallic objects such as knives, explosives and weapons (1).

[Read: Is It Safe To Travel While Pregnant]

Different types of airport scanners

The two basic types of scanners commonly used in airports are:

1.Millimeter radio wave scanner:

  • This particular type of scanner stands out at the airport because the design includes a booth where travelers had to stand with their arms raised.
  • In the cabin, the person's body is scanned using millimeter radio waves. The reflected waves are collected by the antennas to create the image on the monitor.
  • Because the scanners don't use X-rays, they won't have any harmful effects on your growing fetus.

2. Backscatter scanner:

  • The backscatter scanner requires people to stand between two large boxes by raising their arms.
  • Inside the scanner device, the low-intensity X-rays capture an image of a person's body within a few seconds.
  • This scanner detects hidden objects under clothing or explosive objects stuck to the surface of the skin.

Procedure for a body scan at airports

Before going through the airport scanner, you will need to remove all of your personal assets including wallets, tissue paper, ID cards, cell phones and boarding pass. You will also need to remove accessories such as jewelry, jackets, belts, shoes, and bulky clothing.

You must then step on the scanner device and stand above head level with both hands for about two to three seconds until the instrument takes the image. The vetting officer will review your scan results while you can then collect your personal items.

[Read: Air Travel During Pregnancy]

Are Airport Scanners Safe During Pregnancy?

Yes, researchers conclude that airport scanners are perfectly safe for expectant mothers. Whether it's a backscatter scanner or a millimeter radio wave scanner, you can safely pass them during your pregnancy.

The backscatter scanners use a low frequency electromagnetic wave to detect the objects or weapons hidden in a person's clothing. Because of the low intensity x-ray, exposure to an airport scanner may not harm your growing fetus. The scanner sees through the traveller's clothing but not through the skin. Due to the low penetration of the electromagnetic wave, this cannot cause any harm to your body.

The millimeter wave scanners also reflect away from the surface of your skin and cannot penetrate it. Such waves cannot harm you or your unborn child.

The radiation protection standard sets a maximum allowable level of exposure for the general public, including pregnant mothers and children.

However, if you have concerns about the security of the scanners or feel uncomfortable passing them through, you can ask the security experts to do a physical search (2).

Process involved in a physical pat-down

If you choose to do a physical pat-down search, a security guard will run her hand over your entire body, especially your breasts and stomach, to check for the presence of hidden weapons. Make sure you get to the airport early as the knocking process takes significantly longer than the regular screening process.

[Read: Is It Safe To Use A Seat Belt While Pregnant?]

Tips for a comfortable flight during pregnancy

It is important that you ask your gynecologist's permission before planning any air travel. The doctor can advise you depending on your state of health.

Here are some key tips that you should adhere to during your trip:

  • If you are in the initial stages of pregnancy, you must be sick in the morning. The problems can worsen on flights, with a strong urge to vomit. Carry a small bag to make it easier for you to throw up.
  • During long air travel, get up from your seat and walk around every half hour. You will feel fine and prevent blood clots in your legs.
  • Try drinking a small amount of water on a regular basis to stay hydrated.
  • Select the center seats for a smoother ride.
  • You can ask for an aisle seat to get extra space for your legs.
  • When taking long-haul flights, take all essential medication with you.
  • Carry all essential supplies with you like a comfortable pillow, dry fruits against hunger and a discreet pouch against air sickness. With such preparation, you can be sure that you will have a smoother flight.

How was your experience with security scanners at airports during pregnancy? Did you notice any discomfort while scanning? If you did decide to pat-down, how convenient was it? Share your experiences here!