Is Microwave Oven Use Safe for Pregnant Women?

woman's hand touching dial on microwave oven

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Despite a decline in popularity in recent years, the vast majority of homes in the United States still have a microwave oven, which also extends to schools and the workplace. It's not uncommon for most people to use a microwave every day, or at least walk past a microwave in use on a regular basis. But is this a problem if you are pregnant?

Microwaves work by using electromagnetic radiation to raise the temperature of water molecules in food, which generates electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Other sources of EMFs include cell phones and other electronics. There has been concern and debate over EMF exposure during pregnancy, and that EMFs may cause low birth weight or birth defects.

However, there is simply not enough research on humans that has shown a direct connection between microwave EMFs and birth abnormalities. While one study in 2016 observed that significant and prolonged exposure to EMFs could pose a risk of miscarriage during pregnancy, the researchers concluded that further study on larger samples was still needed.

Safely Using a Microwave in Pregnancy

To ensure your safety when using a microwave when pregnant or not, be sure that your microwave does not leak. Most recently made microwaves will not work if the seal on the door is broken, so newer microwaves tend to be safer.

Some experts suggest that if you are concerned, simply put your food in the microwave and walk away while it's cooking to avoid the potential exposure to EMFs. However, most experts will tell you that it is safe to use the microwave during all three trimesters of pregnancy.


  • Consider replacing older models with a newer model.
  • Step several feet away from the microwave while it is in use. The EMF will drop off steeply with distance.

Microwave Food Safety

Use proper food safety rules when cooking and heating with the microwave. Some plastics can melt or warp in the microwave, this can cause chemicals to leach into your food. You should always use the microwave with approved food containers, like glass and specific plastics to avoid this risk.

What you are really the most at risk for is burning yourself from food or water heated in the microwave. Microwaves can make food temperatures really hot and they are known for uneven heating.

Be sure that whatever you are making in the microwave is cooked long enough to be warmed appropriately, but not overdone. Once cooked, allow it to cool sufficiently. When appropriate, stir the food to make sure the temperature is even.

Consider using oven mitts to remove bowls and dishes from the microwave to avoid burns. When lifting lids, do so away from your body to prevent steam burns from the released steam. These may all sound like common sense, but it's easy to take microwave food safety for granted.

A Word From Verywell

When in doubt, remember that you can also go the slightly slower and more traditional route of using the oven or stovetop to cook your food. Be sure that you follow food safety rules to prevent food poisoning and burns.

9 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ferdman RA. QUARTZ. The slow death of the microwave.

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Microwave Oven Radiation.

  3. Sadeghi T, Ahmadi A, Javadian M, et al. Preterm birth among women living within 600 meters of high voltage overhead Power Lines: a case-control study. Rom J Intern Med. 2017;55(3):145-150. doi:10.1515/rjim-2017-0017

  4. Abad M, Malekafzali H, Simbar M, Seyed mosaavi H, Merghati khoei E. Association between electromagnetic field exposure and abortion in pregnant women living in Tehran. Int J Reprod Biomed (Yazd). 2016;14(5):347-54.

  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Microwave Oven - Checking Ovens for Leakage and Other Radiation Safety Problems.

  6. Rady Children's Hospital San Diego. Can Pregnant Women Use Microwaves?.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nonionizing Radiation.

  8. World Health Organization. What are electromagnetic fields?.

  9. Harvard Health Publishing. Is plastic a threat to your health?.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.