Pregnancy Concerns: Tattoos and Body Piercing

By | January 10, 2014

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Your wild child days are a thing of the past, and now you’re ready to start a family. You might be worried about how your body adornments could affect your pregnancy. Read on to find out if your tattoos and body piercing are cause for concern.


You may have heard that having a tattoo on the small of your back will prevent you from receiving an epidural during labor. Many doctors and anesthesiologists say it’s not true. In fact, the ink from the tattoo becomes a permanent part of the top layer (dermis) of your skin. When the epidural needle passes through your skin toward your spine, it does not become “contaminated” by the ink. If you still have concerns, discuss this with your doctor and find out your hospital’s policy on epidurals.

Stretch marks greatly affect tattoos. Depending on the location of your tattoo, you could end up with an unrecognizable blob by the time you give birth. There is no guarantee that your tattoo will regain its original form after you lose your baby weight, either. Delicate or intricate designs and tattoos near your stomach area or pelvis could easily become distorted.

Physicians will advise you against getting a tattoo during pregnancy because of the risk of infection. Most recommend that you wait until after your baby is born. To be extremely cautious, you should wait until after you wean the baby off breastfeeding because infections are easily transmitted through a mother’s breast milk. If you decide to get a tattoo during pregnancy, keep these safety factors in mind to reduce the potential health risks:

Make sure the tattoo artist is registered. Ask to see an up-to-date certificate from the state (if your state requires registration).

Be sure the tattoo parlor looks clean. Avoid shops that look dingy or have dirty floors.

Make sure ALL needles are brand new, individually packaged and for one use only.

Check to see that all dyes or inks are in unopened, sterile packaging.

Make sure they sterilize ALL equipment in an autoclave.

Be sure the tattoo artist wears brand new, disposable sterile gloves throughout the entire procedure.

Check to see that all dressings (gauze, bandages, etc.) are in unopened, sterile packaging.

You cannot stress sterility enough. If you get a tattoo and question the safety practices of the parlor, get tested immediately for Hepatitis, HIV and other blood-borne diseases.

Once again, avoid getting a tattoo during pregnancy. The chemicals in tattoo dyes and inks could possibly affect the baby’s development during the first twelve weeks, but these risks have not been conclusively identified.

Navel Piercing

Still have that belly button ring from college? It’s no big deal throughout pregnancy. If you want to keep your navel ring, go to a piercing salon and have a professional swap it out for a flexible bar (called a PTFE bar). As you gain weight, your skin will stretch. Consequently, a flexible navel ring will reduce the pressure on the piercing as your abdomen expands. As long as you take good care of your piercing throughout the pregnancy (keep it clean with plain antibacterial soap, but don’t put topical ointments like Neosporin on it), you can avoid redness, swelling and infection.

If you do not want to wear a navel ring during pregnancy, it is best to remove it before you become pregnant. This gives the hole a better chance to heal. You will not be able to replace the ring without re-piercing.

If you get any kind of piercing while pregnant, follow the same safety guidelines mentioned for tattoos. However, physicians do not recommend getting a piercing during pregnancy because of the risk of infection.

Before considering any kind of procedure, consult with your physician. Tattoos and body piercing can be risky for anyone, but they are especially risky for a pregnant woman.

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