Сan You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?

    Updated 24 April 2020 |
    Published 03 December 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Tanya Tantry, MD, Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Medical Consultant at Flo
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    Pregnancy can be a magical time for some women, but it’s also a time when you may have to minimize or cut out enjoyable things, like alcohol, raw seafood, and never-ending cups of coffee. 

    There aren’t any definitive rules when it comes to getting a tattoo while pregnant, but in general, the safest thing to do is to wait until after you give birth to get a tattoo. 

    Getting a tattoo while pregnant: What are the risks?

    Even though there’s not much research about pregnant women getting tattoos, there are a number of known risks associated with tattooing in general.

    Risk of infection

    Getting a tattoo puts you at a potential risk for infection. Remember that not all tattoo parlors have the same hygiene protocols. Some tattoo shops don’t meet minimum safety standards when it comes to keeping equipment and needles clean and sterilized. Unclean needles and equipment can spread diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

    If you contract these diseases while pregnant, you can pass on the infection to your baby. It is also possible to become infected and not even know it, as it may take years before symptoms are noticeable. 

    Tattoos can also become infected as they heal. If you decide to get a tattoo because you know the parlor is reputable, make sure to follow the tattoo artist’s recommendations for at-home care. 

    Symptoms of an infection from a tattoo include:

    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Red lesions or pus on the tattoo
    • Discharge that has a bad smell coming from the tattooed area
    • Areas of raised, hard tissue around or near the tattoo
    • New dark lines developing or coming out from the tattooed area

    Potential epidural effects

    If you’re planning to get a tattoo on your lower back, keep in mind that this is where an epidural injection is administered during labor. If your birth plan includes an epidural, then you may want to wait until after you give birth to get your tattoo.

    If you already have a tattoo on your lower back, then there shouldn’t be any issues with the epidural. The risk is only for new tattoos or those that might be infected.

    Your tattoo’s appearance may be different

    Pregnant women’s bodies change considerably during pregnancy as skin stretches and expands, and hormones can affect your skin’s appearance. Tattoos on the abdomen or hips, for example, might be affected by stretch marks. 

    Hyperpigmentation can result from changes in hormones, which may make your tattoo look different. In addition, some areas of your skin may darken during pregnancy, including your nipples, arms, and face.

    Skin conditions

    Some women develop certain skin conditions during pregnancy that may make getting a tattoo painful or difficult. 

    • Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy are marked by an itchy rash or red bumps resembling pimples that appear on the stomach, torso, arms, and legs.
    • Prurigo of pregnancy is another itchy rash that around 1 in 130–300 pregnant women experience. It can last for several months after delivery.
    • Impetigo herpetiformis is an extremely rare form of dermatosis that starts in the second half of pregnancy. It can cause symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, chills, and fever.

    Ways to minimize risks from tattooing during pregnancy

    If you decide to get a tattoo during pregnancy, there are some things you can do to help minimize the risks. One of the most important is to find a tattoo parlor that has comprehensive cleaning practices. If you’re not sure where you want to go, you may want to tour several places to compare policies.

    • Choose a tattoo studio that is clean and has separate areas for tattooing and piercing.
    • Make sure tattoo artists use an autoclave, which is a machine used to sterilize needles and other tattooing equipment.
    • Needles should be opened from individual packages.
    • The tattoo artist should be wearing new latex gloves while applying your ink.
    • Ink should be in single-use cups, never taken directly from a bottle.

    If you feel unsure about a procedure, don’t hesitate to ask. A good, reputable tattoo parlor should be able to answer your questions and give you details about your service.

    Finally, tell the tattoo artist that you’re pregnant and ask them to walk you through the entire sterilization process, which might help you feel more comfortable.

    Can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding?

    There is no definitive answer to whether getting a tattoo while you’re breastfeeding is safe. There’s no law against it, and no research exists as to whether or not tattoo ink can get into your breast milk and be passed along to your baby. 

    The risks for getting a tattoo while breastfeeding are similar to the risks for getting one while you’re pregnant, and they have to do with the possibility of infection. A postpartum mother may be more susceptible to infection because her immune system may be slightly weakened thanks to sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, and the physical and emotional toll involved with the round-the-clock care of a newborn.

    It’s generally advised to wait to get your tattoo until after you’ve stopped breastfeeding, maybe 9–12 months after your baby is born. 

    Tattoo alternatives to consider

    If getting a tattoo while pregnant or breastfeeding seems too risky to you, there are some alternatives to consider. These options also give you the opportunity to test out a new tattoo design to see how you like it before you get the real thing. This might also prevent having to get a tattoo removed down the road if you don’t like how it looks.

    • Temporary tattoo: Some temporary tattoos are good quality, look realistic, and have beautiful designs. Many are easy to apply at home and can last for a week or two.
    • Henna tattoo: Usually made from henna powder, water, and sugar, henna tattoos can last for up to two weeks and sometimes longer if applied in an area that isn’t rubbed often. Some you can apply yourself, or you can seek out a professional henna tattoo artist.

    The takeaway

    Although getting a tattoo while pregnant isn’t strictly forbidden, you should proceed with caution. Make sure the tattoo parlor you choose is reputable, safe, and has good hygiene practices. Make sure to also follow all recommended at-home skincare regimens to ensure proper healing of your skin. If you ever have any doubts, you can always wait until after you’ve given birth and test a new tattoo idea with a temporary tattoo or henna version instead. 

    History of updates

    Current version (24 April 2020)

    Reviewed by Tanya Tantry, MD, Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Medical Consultant at Flo

    Published (03 December 2019)

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