Getting a tattoo is an exciting experience for many people, but for pregnant women, safety should be the top concern. There are risks associated with getting tattoos during pregnancy that all expecting mothers should understand before making a decision. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about pregnancy and tattoos.
Is It Safe to Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?
The safety of getting a tattoo during pregnancy is questionable according to health experts. There are some specific risks associated with getting a tattoo while pregnant:
Risk of Infection
Tattoos involve piercing the skin which can increase the risk of infection from contaminated equipment. Infections during pregnancy can lead to serious health complications.
Exposure to Toxins
Tattoo ink and needles can transfer tiny particles and heavy metals into the bloodstream. Some of these substances may be toxic and pose risks to fetal development.
Pain Management Concerns
Anesthetics or pain medications commonly used during tattoo procedures could have adverse effects on a developing baby. Limited options exist for providing adequate pain relief safely during pregnancy.
Impact on Immune System
Getting a tattoo triggers inflammation as the skin heals. Pregnancy already overworks the immune system, so getting a tattoo could overwhelm it further and impair the body’s ability to support fetal growth.
So while some women may choose to get a tattoo during pregnancy, there are definite safety issues to consider first regarding maternal and fetal wellbeing. Thoroughly researching risks and talking to a doctor can help pregnant women make a fully informed decision.
What Are the Dangers of Getting a Tattoo While Pregnant?
The potential dangers of getting a tattoo during pregnancy include:
Unsterilized tattoo equipment or needles can transmit bacterial infections like staphylococcus, streptococcus, or hepatitis B and C into the bloodstream. Bacterial infections during pregnancy may lead to serious issues like premature delivery, birth defects, or even miscarriage.
The metal-based inks used in tattoo pigments often contain traces of nickel or cobalt. Exposure to future MRI scans runs the risk of swelling, burning, and irritation around the tattoo site which could have secondary impacts on the pregnancy.
Up to 5% of the general population experiences allergic reactions to tattoo pigments or processes. Allergic reactions during pregnancy may be more severe or dangerous due to changes in the woman’s immune health.
The extra weight and skin expansion of pregnancy changes how a woman’s skin looks and behaves, now and in the future. Tattoos done during pregnancy are at high risk of distortion, warping, blurring, or becoming obscured by stretch marks as the skin changes.
Any microbial contamination of the blood can have severe consequences during pregnancy. Diseases like HIV, hepatitis B/C, or tetanus can pass from unsterilized tattoo equipment through the mother’s bloodstream to the fetus.
What Are the Recommendations for Tattoos During Pregnancy?
Most doctors and health agencies recommend avoiding tattoos entirely during pregnancy due to the variety of health risks involved. The American Pregnancy Association, March of Dimes, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all officially advise pregnant women to wait until after delivery to get a new tattoo.
However, some reputable tattoo artists disagree with an outright ban on pregnancy tattoos. As long as substantial safety precautions are taken, they argue some women may reasonably decide to get a tattoo during pregnancy:
- Consult your obstetrician for guidance based on your specific health status
- Select an extremely reputable tattoo studio with sterilized equipment
- Opt for minimally invasive tattoos without a lot of detail work
- Avoid tattooing body parts that stretch/change during pregnancy like the abdomen
- Delay until after the 1st trimester when risks to fetal development are reduced
- Keep the tattoo small and schedule multiple sessions to spread out healing
But again, these measures only minimize or reduce the inherent risks of pregnancy tattoos rather than eliminating them entirely. Every expecting mother must decide for herself what level of safety risks she is comfortable accepting for non-essential elective procedures like decorative tattoos.
Table: Tattoo Risk Factors During Pregnancy
|Issues During Pregnancy
|Higher risk of complications; Could transfer to fetus
|Burning, swelling; Secondary impacts
|Heavy metals enter bloodstream; Dangerous for fetus
|More severe reactions; Changes in immune health
|Distortion, blurring of tattoo over time
|Most are unsafe; Limited options for relief
|Overwhelms already taxed immune system
|Higher stakes; Could directly impact fetus
How Does the Immune System of Pregnant Women Impact Tattoos?
A woman’s immune system functions differently during pregnancy which can significantly impact how her body reacts to and heals from a new tattoo. Getting tattooed triggers substantial inflammation and places extra demands on the immune system as skin repairs itself.
Pregnancy alone overworks a woman’s immune defenses because of the foreign fetal DNA present inside her body. Supporting fetal development leaves fewer resources for other immune tasks like healing injuries, fighting potential infections, or managing allergic reactions. Adding the inflammation of a healing tattoo on top of an already strained immune system could overwhelm it entirely.
An overwhelmed immune system often manifests through extreme fatigue, body aches, susceptibility to viruses, and impaired recovery from health issues. For pregnant women, immune impairment also means reduced protections for the developing fetus. Any depletion of maternal immune function directly threatens the baby’s available defenses too.
All types of elective procedures, like tattoos, that trigger substantial inflammation are discouraged during pregnancy for this reason. Unless there is a strong medical need driving it, avoiding unnecessary immune system burdens can help ensure the best environment for fetal growth.
Table: Impacts of Tattoos on Pregnant Women’s Immune Systems
|Normal Pregnancy Immunity
|Added Tattoo Impact
|Hyperstimulated immune defenses
|Increased risk of overworking immune protections
|Fewer resources for non-critical immunity
|Major injury healing demand
|Impaired recovery period; Increased infections
|Constant support of fetal DNA
|Open wound vulnerability
|Reduced immune defenses for fetus; Higher severity infections
|Pain; Significant blood loss
|Extreme tiredness and body stress; Poorer healing
|Baby shares mother’s immunity
|Toxins enter bloodstream
|Direct path for contaminants or infections to reach fetus
Do Tattoos Hurt More When a Woman Is Pregnant?
Many pregnant women report higher pain sensitivity or reduced pain tolerance during pregnancy which could make getting tattooed significantly more uncomfortable. Every woman experiences pregnancy differently, but some common body changes contribute to tattoos hurting more:
Pregnancy hormones like relaxin or estrogen loosening tendons/ligaments and may heighten pain reception from physical stimuli like tattoo needles.
Expansion of Abdomen
Many find stretched skin over an enlarged pregnant belly reacts more painfully. The lower back and hips also expand during pregnancy.
Enlarged Breasts/Sensitive Nipples
Hormones enlarging breasts cause soreness while increased blood flow leads to painful nipple sensitivity. Tattooing these areas would likely hurt more.
Poor Circulation in Limbs
Some pregnant women retain more fluids or experience swelling in hands/feet. Any pooling or reduction in blood circulation can amplify tattoo pain.
simply feeling excessively tired or run down often lowers pain tolerance. As exhaustion is very common physical symptom during pregnancy, it logically influences pain reception.
Of course, individual experiences vary substantially, but the majority of expectant mothers can anticipate heightened discomfort compared to being tattooed when not pregnant. Those highly sensitive to pain or late in their pregnancy may struggle the most with the tattoo process.
Can You Breastfeed After Getting a Tattoo?
Yes, women who get tattoos while breastfeeding can safely continue to nurse their babies without any required waiting period. The only exception involves getting a tattoo directly on the nipple/areola region of the breast, which poses some health hazards to infants.
Otherwise, reputable global health organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and UK National Health Service (NHS) unanimously agree tattoos on other body parts present minimal breastfeeding or lactation issues.
Standard post-tattoo safety precautions still apply for nursing mothers:
- Carefully clean and bandage the tattooed area
- Watch closely for signs of infection
- Avoid breastfeeding from ports on engorged/damaged skin
- Communicate concerns promptly with your children’s doctor
But in general, tattoo exposure concerns relate much more directly to pregnancy than breastfeeding. By the postpartum period, potential contaminants pass through the mother’s body without transmission through breastmilk.
If the tattoo healing process raises discomfort, inflammation, or pain interfering with nursing, then discuss options with your obstetrician. Short breaks between sessions may provide relief as the tattoo stabilizes. But overall, medical guidance supports simultaneously breastfeeding and healing small temporary tattoos.
Deciding whether or not to get a tattoo during pregnancy can be a complex personal choice involving careful evaluation of both facts and values. Every expecting mother brings her own specific context regarding health history, risk tolerance, safety reasources, and motivations.
But some core principles provide helpful guardrails for making an informed decision aligned with maternal and fetal wellbeing:
- Avoid completely unnecessary risks that only benefit the mother
- Prioritize the baby’s safety above all other interests
- Thoroughly research risks and procedures before committing
- Follow guidance from reputable health professionals
- Prepare contingency plans accounting for potential complications
If constraints like timing, finances, or sentimentality pressure getting a tattoo before delivering, consider less risky alternatives. Temporary tattoo options with vegetable dyes or henna pigments all mostly avoid pregnancy health hazards while still providing aesthetic enjoyment.
At the end of the day, educated evaluation of medical reality should drive any elective choices entailing safety tradeoffs. While wanting a tattoo during pregnancy is understandable, preventing harm must prevail when a vulnerable baby also hangs in the balance. If anticipating regrets either way, wait until after giving birth for more flexibility. But through open conversations with doctors plus trusting maternal protective instincts, every pregnant woman can reach the choice protecting her unique needs.
Can I get a tattoo in my first trimester?
Medical experts strongly advise against getting a tattoo during the first trimester of pregnancy. The first trimester marks the most crucial period of fetal development when babies grow from a single cell to an embryo with nearly all organ systems.
Risks from toxins, infections, or contaminants pose the greatest danger of birth defects or miscarriage early in pregnancy.
While some minimal risks continue throughout all trimesters, the first 12 weeks carry amplification threats to fundamental formation of the fetus. Unless a life-threatening medical need exists for an immediate tattoo, delay until at least the second trimester or after delivery.
What if I already have tattoos – is it safe to get them touched up while pregnant?
Touching up existing tattoos during pregnancy has slightly lower risks than getting a brand new tattoo but still carries heightened concerns compared to non-pregnant patients. The less involved the touch up, the better during pregnancy. Simple things like going over lines with more ink on an old tattoo probably only pose moderate health issues.
But more complicated touch ups approaching larger new tattoos in scope escalate worries over toxin exposures, healing difficulties, infections, pain/discomfort, and other problems. Have an open conversation with both your doctor and tattoo artist about your specific tattoo and health status before deciding if a touch up seems reasonably safe or not.
Can I go to a tattoo removal clinic to begin laser removal of an unwanted tattoo during pregnancy?
No, tattoo removal with lasers remains strongly discouraged during pregnancy just like getting a new tattoo. In some ways laser removal may even pose greater risks because the laser breaks up tattoo pigments, allowing particles, heavy metals, and contaminants to enter the bloodstream much more easily.
Lasers also generate significant localized heat on the skin, which could affect fetal development. The inflammation and skin trauma from laser removal also burden an already strained immune system similar to getting a new tattoo. For non-urgent tattoo removal, postpone laser treatments until after birth when such risks no longer impact your pregnancy.
What if I spontaneously go into labor immediately after getting a tattoo – are there special concerns to address?
Yes, going into premature labor shortly after getting a tattoo raises unique concerns to promptly communicate with medical staff. Make sure your birthing providers know about the timing of your recent tattoo so they take added infection precautions when you arrive at the hospital.
You will also need close monitoring for potential reactions to anesthetics, antibiotics or other medications that could interact with tattoo chemicals recently introduced to your bloodstream. Your inflamed tattoo site will also heal differently post-delivery before being safe for sun exposure or submersion in water.
Describe aftercare limitations on movement/reaching related to tattoo placement that could alter caring for your newborn. Essentially, be upfront about your tattoo status so additional accommodations protect you and your baby during this delicate recovery period.
My tattoo is placed over my uterus or expands a lot during pregnancy – will it be ruined?
Quite possibly yes. The substantial expansion of skin and tissue changes during pregnancy almost inevitably distorts tattoos located on the abdomen, hips, lower back, and sometimes underarm or bust areas over time. The living canvas skin of a growing pregnant belly moves, stretches, and contorts both temporarily during pregnancy and permanently afterward with postpartum bodily changes.
When considering long-term appearance, any intricate or detailed tattoo work over constantly fluctuating body zones risks disappointing outcomes like blurring, fading, inflating, warping or becoming obscured by stretch marks.
Tattoo artists recommend simple small designs placed strategically on areas less impacted by pregnancy changes if getting tattooed before completing your family. Then save any special meaningful tattoos for celebrating births until after finishing future pregnancies.