Tattoos While Pregnant - Can You Get A Tattoo During Pregnancy?
When you’re pregnant, you’ll encounter long lists of things you’re advise to avoid for the sake of your developing baby.
Soft cheeses? Avoid them.
Sushi and sashimi? Nope.
Bean sprouts? Not even.
Well if that’s not boring enough, you’re told to put up with all those restrictions without indulging in a drop of alcohol!
So what about tattoos? Are they fine during pregnancy or are they another thing you should abstain from?
Getting a tattoo while pregnant is a decision fraught with lots of questions that can seem hard to navigate. Therefore, we’ve put together this brief primer to help you make an informed choice.
Should You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?
One thing to consider when planning a tattoo during a pregnancy, is that your body undergoes a lot of quick and dramatic changes – both during and after the pregnancy.
Obviously, the skin on and around the stomach will stretch. Stretch marks might also form, which could affect where you’d like to have a tattoo. You’re also likely to experience some weight gain during pregnancy and then some weight loss sometime after you’ve delivered the baby.
All of these could affect the way your design looks. Depending on where you plan to get the tattoo (especially the stomach), it might be worth waiting until your body settles into its new normal shape.
There are also some undeniable risks to getting a tattoo while pregnant, and even when the adverse effects are rare, they can be serious.
Whether those risks are worth taking or not will be up to you. Some women will averse tattooing while they’re pregnant. Others will weigh the risks and decide to go ahead with it.
What we’ll do in this post, is give you enough information so that you can decide to get a tattoo (or not) while pregnant, with full knowledge of exactly what’s involved.
Reasons for Not Getting a Tattoo During Pregnancy
So what exactly are the risks and considerations you should keep in mind, before making a decision about getting tattooed during your pregnancy?
While your pregnant, you might feel sore, aching, and uncomfortable even when sitting in a soft chair. Depending on the tattoo you want and its location, you might have to sit in an uncomfortable position for at least an hour while getting it done.
If you’re finding it hard to tolerate sitting in one spot for an extended period of time, it’s best to reschedule your tattoo sometime after you’ve given birth.
Risk of Infections
Tattooing involves creating small open wounds and contact with blood. That means there’s always a small risk of getting an infection, no matter how safe and clean the facility you use.
Contracting HIV or Hepatitis B is not something you ever want. However, when you’re pregnant, there are some added worries.
Although the risk is minimal, there is a small possibility that a Hepatitis infection will lead to pregnancy loss. Moreover, if it’s acquired in the last trimester, it increases the odds of preterm labor, which carries its own risk of complications.
Yet the bigger worry is what happens during the birth itself: mothers who contract Hepatitis B while pregnant, have a high probability (some studies place it at 90%) of passing the virus on to their newborn. In many cases, the baby develops a chronic infection from it, and about a quarter of them will develop serious liver problems once they reach adulthood.
Tattoo Ink Affecting the Baby
This is a concern that gets raised occasionally. Tattoo ink doesn’t just sit on the surface of your skin, but gets tattooed under a layer of it (that’s part of what makes it permanent). Plus, there’s the fact that the tattooing process involves opening blood vessels. Consequently, it’s possible that some of the ink may make its way through the bloodstream and reach the baby.
This worry is compounded by the fact that many professional tattoo inks contain heavy metals. While they’re in quantities and concentrations that are safe for adults, they might have a detrimental effect on a developing fetus.
Still, the truth is, no one really knows. There has been so little research done on this that the risks are only speculative.
Tattoo Ink Allergies
If you’ve never had a tattoo before, you might have an allergy to tattoo ink and not realize it.
Like the ink affecting the fetus, it’s not clear whether there will be any complications if you have an allergic reaction (beyond the reaction itself, that is). Though it’s a potential risk that’s worth considering before getting tattooed.
If this isn’t your first tattoo, you might still have an allergy to some tattoo inks. To be safe, you can get a tattoo from the same shop (if possible) and ask about the kinds of inks they used on you before to make sure your new tattoo is done with something you know your body can tolerate.
If you’re planning to get an epidural while giving birth, you might be worried that a tattoo on your lower back (where the epidural is inserted) will mean you have to go without it.
Thankfully, these worries are mostly unfounded. There’s no evidence of anesthesiologists refusing to give an epidural to someone because they have tattooed skin.
Things might be different, however, for a fresh tattoo. If your tattoo is still healing, some hospitals might be reluctant to give you an epidural. While planning your tattoo, call the hospital’s labor and delivery ward and ask whether it will be an issue.
Precautions if You Choose to Get Tattooed While Pregnant
Now, despite the risks, you might still choose to get tattooed while pregnant. There’s no judgment here – pregnancy means finding a balance between taking added precautions, while still living your life and expressing yourself. It’s up to every individual to decide when to get a tattoo – and deciding whether to do it while pregnant is no different.
If you do choose to get a tattoo while pregnant, there are a few things you can do to get it done safely and with added peace of mind.
Get Tattooed at a Regulated and Certified Tattoo Parlor
Make sure you’ve picked a good facility to get tattooed in.
The first thing to look for is the overall cleanliness of the studio. If it doesn’t look spotless when you walk in, it might not be the right place to get tattooed (especially while pregnant).
Look for a business license and any certifications that the tattoo parlor or the individual artists have. If the staff gets surly with you when you ask to see these or are reluctant to show them, take your business elsewhere.
Make sure they have an autoclave on the premises (that’s the machine tattoo artists use to sterilize their equipment). Every tattoo artist should also be following the typical safety and cleanliness protocols. If you notice anyone tattooing without gloves or appearing to reuse a needle (or any other disposable equipment), instead of getting a new one straight from the package, leave.
Also, be comfortable asking questions and raising concerns. A reputable tattoo parlor will take pride in their safe and clean practices, not get defensive when queried about them.
Work with an Experienced Tattoo Artist
Not everyone who is working in a tattoo parlor is a licensed tattoo artist. Some of them might be aspiring tattoo artists, doing an apprenticeship under an experienced tattoo artist.
There are times when working with an apprentice is just fine – while you’re pregnant is not one of them.
An experienced tattoo artist will usually be more knowledgeable about the various risks and complications that could take place in a tattoo session, and they’re also more likely to know how to manage and deal with those complications safely.
In many states, tattoo artists will undergo regular training and re-certification. In those places, working with a more experienced tattoo artist means working with someone who has more of that training under their belt.
Tell Your Tattoo Artist You’re Pregnant
You might think telling them about your personal life doesn’t matter, but letting the tattoo artist know you’re pregnant alerts them to the fact that you’re at greater risk. Knowing that, they’re likely to be extra cautious and might even take additional precautions when preparing and handling their equipment.
Follow Aftercare Instructions Strictly
What happens in the tattoo shop is most important for your safety, but what happens afterward is critical, too.
After getting tattooed, your artist will give you some aftercare instructions. These are steps you need to take to help your tattoo heal properly and prevent any infections. Follow these to the letter.
You'll also probably want to purchase a good tattoo healing lotion to ensure the area remains supple and nourished.
The best tattoo lotion I've ever personally used is a (vegan) tattoo aftercare product called Hustle Butter. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process - not only to keep your tattoo really well hydrated, but it's also very good at soothing that annoying itching and irritation.
If some of the instructions provided are optional, treat them as necessary. There’s no sense in cutting corners and increasing your risks.
Is It Okay to Get a Tattoo After Pregnancy?
Many people get tattoos to commemorate momentous events in their lives and few events even come close to the significance of the birth of a child. Therefore, naturally, some new mothers want to get some new ink to mark the event and honor their child, and they might want to do it as soon as they can.
If you don’t want to get a tattoo while pregnant but also don’t want to wait too long before getting one, here’s what you need to keep in mind.
There’s some risk to getting a tattoo if you’re a breastfeeding mom.
The ink itself is not an issue. No trace of it will make it to the breastmilk, so your nursing baby will not be exposed to it.
Nevertheless, as mentioned above, there’s always some slight risk of a Hepatitis B or HIV infection while getting a tattoo. Fundamentally, there’s also the possibility of passing that infection to the baby through the breast milk.
It’s an unlikely scenario. Not only is infection from a tattoo rare, but transmitting infection through breastfeeding is a small risk, too.
What’s more likely to happen, however, is transmission through your blood. Breastfeeding is often portrayed as easy and painless, but in reality there are some challenges, and many women will experience cracking skin on and around the nipple as a result of breastfeeding.
Normally that’s a minor issue that’s treated by applying nipple cream, but if you have a bloodborne infection, like Hepatitis B, there’s a possibility that the baby will contract it by ingesting some blood.
Again, this will be a personal decision. Yet the only way to be sure to avoid this risk is to wait until you’re no longer nursing before getting a tattoo.
There’s no hard-and-fast answer when it comes to deciding whether you should get a tattoo while pregnant, but there are risks worth considering.
Bloodborne pathogens, especially Hepatitis B, are the biggest worry. Reputable tattoo studios take every reasonable precaution to prevent the spread of infection (some states even require tattoo artists to be screened for and clear of Hepatitis B before receiving their license). Despite that, infection remains possible.
If you choose to go through with one, just be extra careful when choosing a tattoo artist and follow your aftercare instructions to the letter.