Do Belly Blankets Protect Baby from Radiation?

A new product called Belly Armor claims to shield growing fetuses from radiation from mobile devices. But the question is, Is it necessary?

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Alice Kuo Shippe

The Belly Band uses silver fiber to neutralize electromagnetic waves.

I'm seven and a half months pregnant, and I'm a wireless-gadget addict. So for the past two weeks I've been testing out new products called Belly Armor, which promise to protect my baby from 99% of nonionizing radiation from mobile products, such as my iPhone and iPad. I drape the Belly Blanket over my baby bump when I've got my laptop on my lap; when I'm out, I wear the Belly Band around my abdomen like a girdle.

Both products are lined with silver fibers, which neutralize electromagnetic waves — wrap your cell phone in the blanket and you can see the cellular signal weaken or disappear. The products seem to work but they're a bit uncomfortable to wear, especially in extreme hot weather, so you have to wonder, Are they necessary?

The World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission all maintain that exposure to everyday radiation has not been shown to have any negative health effects on humans. According to Dr. Laura Riley, medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital, products like Belly Armor prey on consumers' unsubstantiated fears. "There are no conclusive studies that have shown that low radiation from everyday devices is harmful to anyone, much less to a pregnant woman," Riley says.

Besides, if you were serious about avoiding radiation, you'd have to wear these barriers permanently — low levels of radiation are all around us all the time, from other people's wireless networks, microwaves and cell phones. "I'd be more worried about a pregnant woman getting sick from heat exhaustion wearing extra layers like this than from the effects of everyday radiation," Riley says.

But that hasn't stopped people from worrying about the potential threat. Since its launch in January, traffic to Belly Armor's website has more than doubled each month as women continue to search for information on radiation exposure during pregnancy. Even Riley acknowledges that the current evidence — which has been ongoing for only about 15 years — doesn't guarantee that future generations won't show an effect. "Will there be studies in 100 years that show that this radiation is harmful? I really don't know," she says.

For now, however, Riley says that "instead of spending the time and money buying a Belly Band, pregnant women should focus on eating well and exercising, which is guaranteed to help reduce an unborn child's risk from the negative effects of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes."

As for me, I'm still concerned about the future impact of my gadget addiction, but for now I guess the healthiest thing to do for my baby is to turn off the computer, take off the blanket and get outside for a walk.