Can You Get A Tattoo When Pregnant? Risks And Precautions

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If you are pregnant and wondering, “can I get a tattoo while pregnant?” You might want to consider some crucial factors before getting a tattoo in pregnancy to avoid the risk of contracting infections such as hepatitis. Although the risk is low, an infection in pregnancy can be challenging to manage.

Some mothers may want a tattoo based on certain pregnancy memories, such as when they felt the first kick. Nonetheless, ensuring that sterilized needles and instruments are used for tattooing may reduce the risk if you cannot avoid getting one.

Read on to learn more about tattoos during pregnancy and why getting a tattoo during pregnancy may not be wise.

Is It Safe To Get A Tattoo Done During Pregnancy?

You may have a tattoo if you wish during pregnancy. However, generally, it is not recommended mainly due to the following reasons.

  • There might be a risk of contracting infections, such as hepatitis and HIV, if you get a tattoo from a place that does not use good quality, sterilized tattooing needles.
  • Skin dyes used in the tattoo contain chemicals, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. Some of these chemicals might affect the baby’s development, especially during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (1).

The American Pregnancy Association recommends pregnant women postpone getting tattoos until delivery (2). Moreover, the tattoo might not look the same as before after delivery. The area might develop stretch marks making it look unappealing. A tattoo on your pregnant belly looks symmetrical but might get distorted post-pregnancy.

What Are The Risks Associated With Getting A Tattoo During Pregnancy?

Tattooing generally carries some risk, which may have significant effects if you are pregnant since it may also affect your baby. Here are a few risks of getting a tattoo while pregnant (3) (4) (5):

  1. You cannot be sure about the safety of the needles used. You would not know if the needle being used is thoroughly sterilized/ a new one. A non-sterilized needle can put you at the risk of contracting infections like Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS. And the infections could be transferred from you to the fetus.
  1. The pain might be stressful. While getting the tattoo done during pregnancy you might faint due to the unbearable piercing pain. Anesthesia can help ease the pain but is not advisable as it can also have potential adverse effects on your baby.
  1. Susceptible to infections. The tattooing process causes tiny wounds that create an open space for microbial infection to settle. The symptoms of infection include:
  • Fever as the body tries to ward off the infection
  • Small blisters filled with clear pus or fluids
  • Green or yellow pus discharge with a foul smell from the area of the tattoo due to the accumulation of dead leukocytes, which are produced to fight the infection
  • Skin inflammation leading to swelling, warmth, and redness
  • Red, dark lines around the tattoo area could indicate a serious medical condition called sepsis or blood poisoning. This happens when the infection enters the bloodstream.
  1. Difficult during epidural anesthesia. Epidural anesthetic is administered during labor at your lower back (6). If you already have a tattoo on the lower back then it’s fine. But, if the tattoo is freshly done towards your due date then the epidural cannot be administered as the tattoo takes almost a month to heal.
  1. Tattoo ink gets absorbed into the skin. However, there are no studies to determine the effect of the ink colors on your unborn baby.
  1. The unbearable pain and stress that you may experience during tattooing could induce labor, leading to premature delivery (7).

The risks may seem small, but they are not worth taking during pregnancy. But, if you have a strong urge to get tattooed and cannot resist it anymore, then you may go ahead with it while taking some precautions.

Precautions To Take While Getting A Tattoo During Pregnancy

If you are determined to have a tattoo while pregnant, then consider the following precautions:

  1. Choose a licensed practitioner: Ensure that the tattoo artist is licensed and is a registered practitioner (if your state registers tattoo artists). The artist must be available in the first 24 hours if you face any problem due to the procedure.
  1. The equipment must be clean: Make sure that you visit a clean and hygienic parlor (2).
    • Check if they sterilize the equipment and needles being used for the tattoo.
    • Check if the surroundings, seats, and flooring are cleaned properly.
    • Ensure that they use new needles
    • Make sure that they use sterile water for mixing the inks. Moreover, the inks used should be unopened.
  1. Hygiene of the tattoo artist: The tattoo artist must use disposable latex gloves while carving the tattoo. Make sure that they place the ink in single-use cups that can be thrown away after use.
  1. Follow aftercare instructions: Once you get the tattoo done, follow the aftercare instructions given by the tattoo artist.
  1. Consult your doctor: Before you go for a tattoo, talk to your doctor and confirm if it is safe for you to get it done.

If you think that you should wait until your delivery before getting a tattoo done, then you might go for a temporary one to satisfy your urge.

Can I Have A Tattoo Removed During Pregnancy?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, the laser-assisted tattoo removal procedure is not deemed safe for pregnant women (8). Most experts recommend against tattoo removal during pregnancy since there is not enough data to indicate the safety of laser use during pregnancy.

Many clinics or tattoo removal professionals may also not perform the procedure on lactating or pregnant women to avoid the risk of health effects, especially on the infant (9).

What Are The Temporary Alternatives To A Tattoo?

Temporary tattoos can be as beautiful as permanent one. Here are some options:

  • You can use a sticker tattoo, which stays on your skin for a couple of days.
  • Consider a henna tattoo if you want it for a longer period. Use the henna, which is chemical-free and is made of natural herbs. This natural alternative will not only satisfy your yearning but also cool down your body temperature.

Let us know more about this natural alternative to the tattoo.

Is Henna Safe During Pregnancy?

Henna is a plant-based dye from henna leaves. The dye has been used in several regions and cultures for centuries. You may consider henna tattoos during pregnancy since they are temporary and do not enter deeper skin layers.

Make sure to choose natural henna without any dyes or those with added colors, such as black or blue henna. Pick henna made for skin application and avoid those meant exclusively for the hair (4). Check the ingredients mentioned on the packet thoroughly and perform a patch test, such as on the soles, before using it on larger skin areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I get a tattoo while pregnant if I suffer from certain skin conditions?

Skin conditions can make tattooing more painful. It is good to avoid tattoos if you have conditions such as PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy), prurigo of pregnancy, impetigo herpetiformis, and hyperpigmentation.

2. Will an existing tattoo create any problem during pregnancy?

If you already have a tattoo, then there is nothing to worry about it. However, when your body shrinks back after pregnancy, it can leave stretch marks making your tattoo appear discolored and distorted.

Though there are chances your tattoo during pregnancy does not negatively affect yourself or your baby, you should consider its many risks before making a decision. For example, using unsterilized needles may develop infections such as Hepatitis B/C or AIDS. The pain may also cause you to be stressed out, increasing the risk of premature labor. Further, you may become susceptible to microbial infections that result in fever and infected tattoos. Hence, consider alternatives such as sticker or henna tattoos for your safety.

Infographic: Think Before You Ink During Pregnancy: Other Ways To Look Stylish

No matter what kind of apparel or accessories you wear, all that matters is feeling comfortable and fabulous during pregnancy. Here are a few ways to look your stylish best during pregnancy. Furthermore, explore the infographic with some useful tricks to help you feel fashionable while pregnant.

maternity fashion tips look stylish during pregnancy [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Getting a tattoo when pregnant could pose a risk of infections and complications.
  • Considering the risks, avoiding getting inked when pregnant is a good idea.
  • Instead, you could opt for natural and safer alternatives such as temporary tattoos.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Is it Safe? During Pregnancy And For Mom and Baby.
    https://www.gov.mb.ca/healthychild/healthybaby/kits/is_it_safe_during_pregnancy_and_for_mom_and_baby.pdf
  2. Tattoos During Pregnancy
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/tattoos/#:~:text=The%20main%20concern%20with%20gettingafter%20your%20baby%20is%20born.
  3. Pamela M. LeBlanc et al. (2012) Tattoo Ink–Related Infections — Awareness Diagnosis Reporting and Prevention.
    https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1206063#t=article
  4. Tattoos & Permanent Makeup: Fact Sheet.
    https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-products/tattoos-permanent-makeup-fact-sheet
  5. Ralf Dieckmann et al. (2016) The Risk of Bacterial Infection After Tattooing.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5290255/
  6. Greg Ginsburg (2009) Lumbar Tattoos and Labour Epidurals: Bare Bones Evidence.
    https://www.jogc.com/article/S1701-2163(16)34114-7/pdf
  7. Helen Wortis And Alfred M. Freedman. Maternal Stress and Premature Delivery.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2555670/pdf/bullwho00312-0138.pdf
  8. Tattoo Removal: Lasers Outshine Other Methods
    https://www.aad.org/public/cosmetic/hair-removal/laser-tattoo-removal
  9. Laser-assisted tattoo removal
    https://www.eadv.org/cms-admin/showfile/EADV%20Laser%26evidence%20based%20devices_2%20Tattoo%20removal.pdf
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Vidya Tadapatri

Vidya did her post-graduation in Biotechnology from Osmania University, Hyderabad. Her interest in scientific research and writing made her pursue a career in writing, in which she now has over four years of experience. She has done certified biotechnology-related training programs under renowned organizations such as Centre For Cellular & Molecular Biology and Department of Biotechnology. Vidya writes health-based articles... more

Dr. Kofi Kwaw-Asante

(MBCHB, MMED, FCOG)
Dr. Kofi Kwaw-Asante runs a private practice in South Africa, as an obstretrician and gynecologist. He obtained his undergraduate medical degree in 2009 and masters in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2016, both from the University of Pretoria. In 2017, Dr Kwaw-Asante founded his private practice Life Fourways. He is registered with the Health Professions Council Of South Africa (HPCSA) and... more

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