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Can I Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?
Updated on
November 17, 2022

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 may or may not plan for it, you go through some pain (or a lot of pain) bringing it into the world and 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.

Is it safe to get a tattoo while pregnant?

The short answer is no. There’s a significant lack of research around the safety of getting tattooed specifically while pregnant, but just as there are risks to getting tattooed in general, those same risks are present (and are typically worse) if you’re pregnant as well:

  • Exposure to bloodborne illnesses. This is the main concern with tattoos and pregnancy, says Dr. Christine Sterling, ob-gyn and founder of the Sterling Parents community. Illnesses like Hepatitis and HIV can have serious effects on your baby’s health. The risk is greatly reduced when ensuring sterile tattooing practices, but it’s not a chance you want to take.
  • Increased bleeding and sensitivity. “It’s also important to know that you tend to have more blood flow to your skin during pregnancy,” Dr. Sterling 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.
  • Design flaws over time. “And it depends on where it is on your body,” Dr. Sterling says. “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.
  • Response to stress. There’s also the fetus’s response to consider, given the research on how stress and trauma during pregnancy can affect fetal development. “Baby is experiencing everything you are,” says Siri, professional tattoo artist and owner of O Tattoo Studio. “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.

But those risks can be minimized, Dr. Sterling says, 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 there’s no cross contamination.

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.

Will baby get ink in their bloodstream?

While there’s 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?

As we said before, bloodborne illnesses can be a risk with tattoos, and the CDC recommends against breastfeeding in the case of some bloodborne illnesses like HIV. So the same key rule applies: if you’re breastfeeding and want to get a tattoo, 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 illness 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.


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