Kids Health Info

MRI Fetal

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a way of taking detailed pictures of the inside of the body.  It is useful for looking at many parts of the body and gives additional information about your unborn baby to that gained from an ultrasound scan.

    During a MRI scan, pictures are taken from different angles.  A computer processes the pictures to produce a detailed image of the part of your baby being scanned. MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to obtain the pictures.

    Is MRI safe?

    The magnetic field and radio waves are believed to be safe and no adverse effects on unborn babies have been reported with normal use. There is no ionizing radiation (e.g. X-rays) used in MRI.

    What should I expect?

    The MRI scanner is like a big square box with a tunnel through the middle. During an MRI scan you need to lie very still in the tunnel, usually on your back.  If this is not possible you may be able to lie on your side.

    The table that you lie on is narrow. You can see what is happening in mirrors that are placed to show the room, and you can talk to the MRI technologist performing the scan. The scan usually takes around 30 minutes.

    Foam cushions and soft straps are used to help you keep still. A soft flexible wrap goes over your stomach and records the radio waves for the pictures. If you prefer, you can wear headphones to muffle the loud knocking noise of the machine.

    Are there any needles?

    No, there are no injections used during the procedure.

    Can anyone be with me during my MRI scan?

    One person may stay with you in the MRI room, provided they also comply with the special precautions.

    Special precautions

    All people entering the MRI room are required to complete a MRI questionnaire prior to the scan. It asks about your medical history and helps the MRI department ensure your safety and that of any accompanying person whilst in the scanning room.

    Any body piercings must be removed.

    The following items are affected by the magnet and are not permitted into the scanning room for safety reasons: watches, pens, keys, jewellery, hair pins, safety pins, mobile phones, credit cards, pagers, radios and CD players.


    MRI scans provide many more pictures with much greater detail than X-rays or other scans, such as ultrasounds. They take a lot longer to review and report.

    Your doctor will have the result of your scan at the time of your next appointment.

    The MRI technologist cannot tell you the results of the scan when it is finished, and administrative staff can not give out results over the telephone.

    If you have any questions about why you need an MRI scan, or questions about the results of your MRI scan, please speak to your doctor.

    Key points to remember

    • MRI scans have more pictures with greater detail than X-rays or ultrasounds.
    • An MRI scan is believed to be safe with no adverse effects on an unborn baby.
    • There are no needles involved in an MRI scan.
    • You can leave straight after the scan.

    More Information

    Where do I go and how long will it take?

    MRI is in Medical Imaging (Radiology) and is located on the lower ground floor of the north building of The Royal Children's Hospital.

    MRI scans of unborn babies take about 30 minutes.

    Although we endeavour to be on time, we are occasionally delayed by emergency scans. You will be able to leave immediately following the completion of your scan.

    What if I am unable to keep my appointment or need to cancel?

    There is a waiting list for MRI scans so if you are unable to keep the appointment please contact the MRI Department as soon as possible (T) 03 9345 5238.

    Developed by the RCH-  MRI Department First published 2004.  Last updated June 2008.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.