Can I Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?
Can I Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?
March 31, 2021

Can I Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?

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Can I Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?.
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Can I Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?

Getting a new tattoo is a little bit like having a baby. You spend some time thinking about it and imagining the possibilities, then you go through some pain (or a lot of pain) bringing it to life, and then you have to be very gentle while caring for it. But getting a tattoo and having a baby are two things you really shouldn’t do at the same time, and for several reasons.

We talked with Dr. Christine Sterling, OB/GYN and founder of the Sterling Parents community, and Siri, owner of O Tattoo Studio, to find out the risks of getting a tattoo while pregnant. The consensus: As fun and creatively rewarding (and, let’s be honest, kind of addictive) as getting a tattoo can be, it’s best to wait until after baby is born before getting any new ink.

Generally speaking, is it safe to get a tattoo while pregnant?

This is a little complicated due to the lack of research, and unfortunately there’s no short answer.

It really depends on your own personal definition of “safe.” There are risks to getting tattooed while pregnant, just as there are risks to getting tattooed in general. But those risks can be minimized, says Dr. Sterling, if you ensure the tattoo artist is fully licensed (and that license is up to date). It’s also a really good idea to make sure the parlor or studio has some kind of autoclave, a device that sterilizes needles and other equipment, to ensure no cross contamination.

What are the risks of getting a tattoo while pregnant?

The main concern with tattoos and pregnancy, Dr. Sterling says, is the potential for exposure to bloodborne illnesses like Hepatitis and HIV. “It’s also important to know that you tend to have more blood flow to your skin during pregnancy,” she says, so you could potentially bleed a little more than usual. Pregnant people also tend to have more sensitive skin, so the typical pain, redness and dryness that accompany a tattoo might feel worse than if you weren’t pregnant, and there might be more irritation.

“And it depends on where it is on your body,” Dr. Sterling continues. “If you’re getting a tattoo on your breast or your belly, these areas will be expanding.” So think twice about that design on your abdomen, because if your pregnant belly hasn’t started showing yet, the design can get stretched out. And there’s a very good chance that at least one stretch mark will appear right in the middle of your beautiful new tattoo.

There’s also the fetus’s response to consider. While the effects on a fetus haven’t been researched, there is research on how stress and trauma during pregnancy can affect fetal development. “Baby is experiencing everything you are,” Siri reminds us. “Even in the womb, a baby is absorbing your energy system, emotions and nerve functions, and it can affect them directly.” While getting a tattoo isn’t normally emotionally traumatic, it is definitely physically traumatic. Having your skin punctured by hundreds of thousands of needles over a two- to four-hour period (sometimes longer) triggers your body’s normal physiological trauma response to help heal your new injuries. And depending on the location of the tattoo, the amount of pain you experience over multiple hours can definitely be stressful.

Will baby get ink in their bloodstream?

While there is a known risk of some of the ink getting into your bloodstream, there isn’t enough research into the biological process of getting a tattoo to know how far into your bloodstream the ink will travel and whether or not the ink will cross the placenta.

Once deposited into your skin’s lower dermis level, a small amount of tattoo ink typically only travels as far as the closest lymph nodes. But on rare occasions, pigments can be carried to other organs. Whether the placenta is one of those organs, we simply don’t know due to lack of research.

Is it safe to get just a small tattoo while pregnant?

Smaller tattoos mean smaller amounts of ink used, which certainly reduces the amount of pigment that might find its way into your lymphatic system or bloodstream. But the size of the tattoo itself doesn’t completely erase any of the risks.

Is henna a safe temporary tattoo option while pregnant?

“We [medical professionals] think so,” Dr. Sterling says. “There are a lot of cultures that use henna when people are pregnant (and when they’re not pregnant). There aren’t any studies on henna and pregnancy, so we can’t say this is 100% safe, but we know it’s been used for thousands of years in many cultures, and we’re not aware of any issues.”

Is it okay to get a tattoo while breastfeeding?

Bloodborne diseases are still a risk and can be harmful to your baby while breastfeeding, so the same key rule applies: make sure the tattoo artist is licensed and the shop is practicing proper sanitation and sterilization techniques.

Overall, while there isn’t enough research or data to say that tattoos are definitely harmful to you or your baby during pregnancy, when the risks involve bloodborne disease and potential fetal distress due to your body’s trauma response, it’s a good idea to just hold off on getting that new tattoo until after you’ve delivered your baby.

Think of it this way: nine months isn’t a very long time to wait, considering a tattoo lasts forever. For now, if you’re really itching for body art, consider getting a safe, temporary design using henna or realistic-looking temporary tattoos like these ones from InkBox.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and the Babylist Health Advisory Board.