Is It Safe to Get Tattoo While Pregnant?

You are probably aware of the many dos and don’ts associated with pregnancy. Eat that, don’t eat this, don’t do that… The list goes on and on. There are also some physical activities that you are cautioned against. You are also advised to avoid acupuncture, fake tans, jacuzzi and hair dyes. So, with the list going on and on, what if you are thinking of something like a tattoo? Well, can you get a tattoo when you're pregnant?

Can You Get a Tattoo When You Are Pregnant?

It May Lead to Infection

The biggest risk associated with getting a tattoo is contracting an infection. It is hard to determine the safety of the needles and other tools used. You could get infected with hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV.

It is even riskier when you get a tattoo during pregnancy because the infection can pass on to your unborn baby. It is worth to note that the infection may take time before manifesting. Here are the common symptoms that you should look out for:

  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Chills
  • Lesions and pus from the tattoo
  • Feeling of hard tissue around the tattoo

There are other more serious infections which you risk including staph. And while the risk of a serious infection is minimal, it is better to postpone your appointment until after you have had the baby.

It May Affect Your Chance of Having an Epidural

Getting a tattoo on the lower back may affect your chance of getting an epidural. Many women go for a tattoo on the lower back, yet this is where the epidural is administered. You may want to hold off on a tattoo if you are planning to get an epidural.

There is no cause for concern if you already have a tattoo on that region. Only new, unhealed, or infected tattoos present a problem. The skin around the tattoo may be swollen, red or even oozing with discharge which will make it hard for an epidural to be administered.

If the question can you get a tattoo when you're pregnant, is still not clear, realize that tattoos take time to heal and some may take longer than others. Tattoos may also get infected. It’s better not to wager with the healing time and your baby’s arrival.

It May Look Different After Your Pregnancy

Pregnancy comes with a lot of hormonal and bodily changes and is not the best time to get a tattoo. Your skin stretches as the body makes room for the growing baby. This expansion can cause stretch marks during and after pregnancy.

Besides, the hormonal changes during this period can also lead to certain skin conditions that can lead to pain or difficulty due to the procedure.

These conditions include:

  • PUPPP which stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. The condition is characterized by red rashes, swelling, patches and pimples occurring on the stomach, arms, trunk, and legs.
  • Prurigo of pregnancy characterized by papules (red rash) that are itchy and painful. The condition can last for several months post-partum and affects about 1 in 130-300 women.
  • Impetigo herpetiformis this is a rare form of psoriasis that mostly occurs during the second trimester. The condition is characterized by nausea, fever, and chills.

Aside from the above skin conditions, hormonal changes can also cause hyperpigmentation. It has been reported that up to 70% of women experience this problem during their pregnancy. Hyperpigmentation causes some areas of the skin to darken especially when exposed to the sun.

The darkening clears off after pregnancy and the skin regains its natural color. It is therefore prudent to hold off getting inked if you are still wondering, can you get a tattoo when you're pregnant.

It May Cause Early Labor

During pregnancy, the skin becomes more sensitive than usual. Pricking from needles is something that you should generally avoid. The tattooing process can also send you into early labor due to shock caused to the body.

Safety of Tattoo Dyes and Inks Is Unknown

There is little research done about the effects on the unborn baby, of the tattoo ink used. Although the dye is harmless to adults, the exact effect on a developing baby is yet to be established. Therefore, it is better to play safe altogether and avoid getting inked while pregnant.

How to Get a Safe Tattoo While Pregnant

If you have already made up your mind concerning getting a tattoo while you’re pregnant, it is prudent to do your due diligence beforehand. Always make certain that your tattoo artist is licensed and registered.

Pre-visit the tattoo parlor and do some inspection of your own. Make sure that the place is neat and clean. Check the floors, walls, and storage system. Ask to see a device called an autoclave. An autoclave is a machine that uses heat and steam to sterilize tattooing equipment.

Take a step further and ask to see that the needles are new and meant for single use only. You can also inform your tattoo artist that you are pregnant. It might not be easy to find one who is willing to ink you in that condition.

The second trimester is the best time to schedule a tattoo appointment since your baby’s organs have already developed. Tattooing during the first trimester poses a lot of risk to the developing baby. Ensure that the dressing and gloves are new and unopened before the procedure begins.

Be aware of the fact that getting an infection-free tattoo is not 100% guaranteed. Despite the measures taken, there is still a risk of infection after the procedure. Considering this, it is best to wait until AFTER you have had your baby.

Henna Tattoos – a Safe Alternative 

Henna tattoos have been around for thousands of years and are a safe alternative to ink-needle tattoos. If you are thinking of henna, the answer to the question; can you get a tattoo when you're pregnant, is yes.

Henna is preferable because:

  • It is plant-based and contains no chemicals or foreign substances.
  • Temporary- only lasts for several months

Have your henna artist test the dye on a tiny patch of your hand overnight to see if there will be any reaction.

Avoid black henna since it contains coal tar (para-phenylendiamine, PPD) that can cause a bad reaction on your skin. Instead, use the copper-brown henna which is natural and has no additives.

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