Is Microwave Oven Use Safe for Pregnant Women?

woman's hand touching dial on microwave oven

Eric Audras/ONOKY/Getty Images

The vast majority of homes in the United States have a microwave oven, and this also extends to schools and the workplace. Nearly every day, you probably have something that is microwaved or walk past a microwave in use. Is this a problem if you are pregnant?

Microwaves work by using electromagnetic radiation to raise the temperature of a cell. The electromagnetic radiation causes electromagnetic fields (EMF). Other sources of EMFs include cell phones and other electronics. There has been concern over EMF exposure during pregnancy, and that EMFs might cause low birth weight or birth defects. However, there have been no studies showing clear connections between the two. The studies usually recommend that more studies be done or that they look at things from a different perspective.

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 practitioners 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 EMF. However, most practitioners will tell you that it is safe to use the microwave during all three trimesters of pregnancy.

If you are concerned about your microwave:

  • If your microwave is older, consider replacing it with a newer model.
  • Step several feet away from the microwave while it is in use. The EMF drops 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 we often 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.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Microwave Oven Radiation. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • Robert E. Teratology. 1999 Apr;59(4):292-8. Intrauterine Effects of Electromagnetic Fields--(Low Frequency, Mid-Frequency RF, and Microwave): Review of Epidemiologic Studies.

  • Shaw GM. Adverse Human Reproductive Outcomes and Electromagnetic Fields: A Brief Summary of the Epidemiologic Literature. Bioelectromagnetics. 2001; Suppl 5: S5-18