Can You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant? Research-backed

Tattoo When Pregnant
A tattoo is a great way to capture a crucial moment. But can you get a tattoo while pregnant? Is it worth it, and what risks you will face? Check it out below.

Can You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant? Latest Research

Currently, there isn’t much recent research on getting tattoos during pregnancy. Most of the scientific articles on this topic are authored by Dr. Nicolas Kluger, a dermatologist from Helsinki. Dr. Kluger believes that the risk of a miscarriage due to getting a tattoo is low. However, we must not overlook other risks, such as infections and harmful components in tattoo ink. 

In his article titled “Can a mother get a tattoo during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?” he highlights that the primary concern is how heavy metals, which can enter the bloodstream through tattoo ink, might affect the developing baby. [2]

We need more research to understand these risks better. And it’s the same deal with getting tattoos while breastfeeding — we’re still figuring things out.

— he said.

In Dr. Nicolas Kluger’s article “Contraindications for Tattooing,” he mentions a study involving 25 women with tattoos, and it is reported that none of them experienced pregnancy problems due to their previous tattoos[3].

Currently, the most relevant insights come from actively practicing doctors. Sometimes, they share their knowledge through interviews, offering valuable advice. Their opinions are highly valued because, in the absence of actual research, their expertise is invaluable, both to healthcare professionals and to pregnant women. Doctors agree that it is worth avoiding getting a tattoo during pregnancy. This is because it can pose risks not only to the baby, but may also lead to complications in the healing of the tattoo, which we’ll talk about next.

Can you get a tattoo while pregnant

Risks Associated With Getting a Tattoo During Pregnancy

Medical Risks

There are more serious reasons to give up a tattoo during pregnancy:

1. Pain shock.

The body during pregnancy is more sensitive to external stimuli, and therefore the pain that was habitual before may now seem simply unbearable. 

Pain shock is an extremely dangerous situation associated with loss of consciousness and the threat of miscarriage, regardless of the term. Although it is possible to increase the pain threshold by taking certain medications and local anesthesia, it is necessary to understand the aspect that comes out of this. Many medicines cannot be used due to a large number of contraindications and the risk of allergies, which adversely affects the unborn baby.

2. Allergy.

An increased risk of an allergic reaction is also associated with a change in the body’s sensitivity due to fluctuations in hormonal levels. Even the simplest black pigments are sometimes allergic, let alone bright shades.

3. Difficulty with recovery.

Pregnancy is a huge burden on the body, it spends maximum resources to provide the fetus with the necessary nutrients, to provide conditions ideal for healthy growth and development without pathologies so that any external load is undesirable. Even a cold sometimes drag on for a long time, let alone a tattoo, which is a mechanical injury. The tattoo can heal longer than the standard two weeks, which is associated with slow tissue regeneration and restrictions on the use of certain ointments and creams.

4. The danger of infection.

Nowadays, most tattoo artists are extremely responsible for the issues of sterility and antiseptic treatment. They work with gloves, disposable needles, which eliminates the risk of infection during the session. However, even a small mistake during care is enough to face inflammation, since the body of a pregnant woman is very sensitive and defenseless during this period. There is also a risk of getting serious diseases like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, which can be passed to the baby.

5. Impact on the fetus’s development.

As Dr. Fahs mentioned in her interview with Cosmopolitan magazine, getting a tattoo during the first trimester of pregnancy can negatively affect the development of the baby’s organs. During this period, the placenta, which usually protects the baby, is not fully developed. Heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, and lead found even in black inks can pass through it and cause problems in the baby’s development.

pregnancy-and-tattoo

External Risks

Possible changes in appearance that can worsen the result of the tattoo:

1. Pregnancy is inextricably linked with changes in the figure, some women are faced with excess weight gain.

With the development of the fetus, the abdomen increases in size, so that the tattoos made in these places can blur, deform, and require serious correction, especially if they are large.

2. Changes in hormonal levels have a serious impact on pigments.

The skin accepts paint worse, often there are even color deviations from the original shade, so the final result may be far from expectations.

3. Dry skin.

Many people face the fact that during pregnancy, the skin becomes dry, requiring increased care, and sometimes the intake of special vitamins and elements that restore the natural water balance. It is much more difficult for a master to work on dry skin, it fixes the pigment worse, there is a risk of blurring the contours.

pregnancy-and-tattoo

Which Trimester Is The Safest For Tattooing?

During pregnancy, there isn’t a specific “safe” trimester for getting a tattoo, and doctors typically recommend avoiding tattoos throughout pregnancy. The main reason is the potential risk of infection, dangerous ink components, and healing problems. There are many misconceptions about which trimester is less dangerous for tattoos if you decide to get one. Such a lack of knowledge can be risky for both the mother and the baby.

  • Can you get a tattoo while pregnant in the 1st trimester?

It might seem like this period is the safest because the baby bump is barely visible, but this is a dangerous misconception. Getting a tattoo is strictly prohibited during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The reason is that during this time, not only the baby’s internal organs are forming, but also the placenta. Heavy metals present in tattoo ink can easily pass through the underdeveloped placenta and harm the baby’s brain and other organs.

❗️ Warning:
Getting a tattoo during the first trimester of pregnancy poses the highest risk to the fetus and can lead to serious development problems.
  • Can you get a tattoo while pregnant in the 2nd trimester?

Getting a tattoo during this time is considered safer than in the first trimester because by now, the baby’s organs and placenta have already formed, which reduces the risk a lot. This trimester is the most suitable for getting a tattoo because pregnancy uses all the body’s resources, and the farther along, the harder it is for the tattoo to heal. Be sure to consult with your doctor before the session to ensure that the placenta is fully developed!

  • Can you get a tattoo while pregnant in the 3rd trimester?

This period is also considered safer than the first trimester, but during the third trimester of pregnancy, the pain from getting a tattoo can be much stronger, and it takes longer to heal. The American Pregnancy Association recommends avoiding ink during this period and using natural henna instead. [1]

During pregnancy, it’s important to prioritize the health and well-being of both the mother and the unborn baby. If you have any questions or concerns about this, it’s best to consult with your doctor, who will give you personalized recommendations based on your specific situation.

Can you get a tattoo while pregnant

What if You Get a Tattoo and Then Find Out That You Are Pregnant?

If you got a tattoo before you knew you were pregnant, be sure to tell your doctor, even if the procedure was done in a licensed studio. The doctor will prescribe the necessary tests for infections and examine to make sure that everything is in order with the baby.

Early detection of even dangerous diseases at the level of development of modern medicine often ends in almost complete recovery. 

If the procedure did not cause negative consequences as a result, then the baby has continued normal development and is not in danger.

If everything is in order, and the fetus develops normally, the question of aesthetic consequences is brewing. Tattoos on the lower back or abdomen may change after childbirth. The risk of such an outcome is always there, but it very much depends on the personal physiological characteristics of the woman.

pregnancy-and-tattoo

Useful Tips To Minimize Tattoo Deformation

To minimize the risk of deformation of the tattoo, it is recommended to do the following:

  • during pregnancy, be sure to wear a bandage that will reduce the elasticity of the tissues in the abdomen and prevent changes in the appearance of the tattoo;
  • apply special creams for pregnant women on the body every day, use hypoallergenic base oils for the same purposes — corn, coconut, almond, and olive oil, as well as macadamia oil, are optimal;
  • stick to a healthy diet, so that there are no sharp jumps in weight up or down.

Using all of these methods and helpful tips, you can reduce the likelihood of deformation of the applied image or text, while maintaining the aesthetic appeal and clarity of your tattoo.

Henna Tattoo For Pregnant Bellies

When you want to get a tattoo and not wait for childbirth, then henna will be a safe alternative. In some cultures, it is customary to get Mehendi (henna tattoos) during pregnancy and it is believed to bring good luck.

Drawings are applied using natural henna, which is prepared according to a special recipe only from herbal ingredients. Because of this, tattoos are considered safe, but black henna should not be used. Tattoos should be done with dark brown or red henna. 

❗️ Warning:
Black henna is not safe because it contains some elements that can cause burns and blisters.

The most appropriate time to apply the tattoo is considered to be the beginning and end of pregnancy. Due to its aesthetic appearance, expectant mothers will be able to arrange an amazing photo session, and henna tattoos will make it unforgettable.

pregnancy-and-tattoo

Precautions if You Decide To Get a Tattoo During Pregnancy

Note:
It is important to understand those rash decisions can harm the baby. It is encouraged and highly recommended to wait until pregnancy and lactation are over.

If you are still firmly convinced of your intentions, then you should pay attention to the following points:

  • Schedule a session for the 2nd or 3rd trimester

The internal organs of the fetus have already been formed by this time, and therefore it is more resistant to external influences.

  • Limit yourself to a small tattoo that can be done in a 2-3 hour session

Tattooing is always accompanied by pain, which, although can be relieved with painkillers, still is not recommended to avoid negative consequences for the unborn baby. Therefore, it is better to limit yourself to a small tattoo, the application session of which will take a maximum of 3 hours.

  • Choose suitable locations for the tattoo so that the stomach is not stressed 

It is better not to do tattoos directly on the stomach, chest, or back. These areas of the body are subject to the greatest deformations. Forearms, shoulders, calves are the optimal solution.

pregnancy-and-tattoo
  • Get a tattoo at a certified tattoo studio

The first thing worth paying attention to is the overall cleanliness of the studio. Check out the license and any certifications the tattoo studio or individual artists have.

Make sure they have an autoclave. This is the machine that tattooists (and surgeons/dentists) use to sterilize their equipment. Every tattoo artist must also adhere to standard safety and cleanliness protocols.

  • Pick an experienced tattoo artist

Not everyone who works in a tattoo studio is a licensed tattoo artist. Some of them may be beginners, taking an internship with an experienced and licensed employee.

An experienced tattoo artist is usually more aware of the various risks and complications that can arise during a tattoo session and is also more likely to know how to deal with these complications safely.

  • Tell the tattoo artist that you are pregnant

Telling the tattoo artist that you are pregnant warns you that you are at greater risk. Knowing this, they will take extra care and extra precautions when preparing and handling their equipment. Plus, they will check your comfort level more closely throughout the entire process.

  • After tattoo session

Skin with new tattoos is sensitive at first, so avoid heavy showers in favor of a gentle wash and then pat dry rather than rub. Avoid sitting in the sun, swimming in pools, lakes, and hot tubs, or wearing tight clothing (loose clothing is best so your skin can breathe). And don’t give in to the urge to scratch your skin scabs, as this action can introduce bacteria and cause infection.

pregnancy-and-tattoo

Summary

So, can you get a tattoo during pregnancy? We recommend that you wait for a more opportune moment since there are many risks in this period that are not advisable to ignore. As an alternative to a tattoo, you can apply Mehendi (henna tattoo), which is safe and will not harm the unborn child.

If you are firmly convinced of your intentions it is recommended:

  • take seriously the choice of a tattoo parlor, check the availability of certificates and pay attention to the observance of cleanliness;
  • use the services of an experienced tattoo artist who is aware of the various risks and complications that can arise during tattooing;
  • schedule a session for the 2nd or 3rd trimester to protect the unborn child from unforeseen complications;
  • choose a small tattoo that can be completed in no more than 3 hours.

FAQ

? Can I Get a Tattoo During Pregnancy?

Getting a tattoo is stressful on the body and should be avoided during pregnancy. But if your decision is unshakable, wait until the second trimester, when your baby’s major organs, bones, nerves, and muscles have developed. Also, make sure that the tattoo artist is licensed and that sterile equipment is used in the tattoo studio.

? Can you get a tiny tattoo while pregnant?

During pregnancy, it is better not to get a tattoo, even a small one, especially in the first 12 weeks, when the baby’s organs are forming. Tattoos can be very stressful for the body, but if you are not going to give up your decision, it is better to wait until the second trimester. Even a small tattoo can be very painful and take longer than the usual 2 weeks to heal, due to lowered immunity and hormonal changes.

? Can I Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?

The needle of the tattoo machine only reaches the dermal layer of the skin, so the ink cannot enter breast milk. However, women who want to get a tattoo while breastfeeding should be aware of a possible infection that could harm the baby.

❌ Can you get a tattoo removed while pregnant?

If you want to remove the tattoo, try to do it after the baby is born. Although tattoo removal technology is constantly evolving, you should keep in mind that tattoo removal is slow and difficult and can also leave permanent scars on the skin. However, if you are considering getting a tattoo removed, it is recommended that you see a dermatologist discuss your options, which may include tattoo removal surgery as well as subsequent restoration.

? Can you get an epidural with a spine tattoo?

In most cases, having a spine tattoo should not prevent you from getting an epidural during labor. Usually, the anesthesiologist can insert the epidural needle through the skin free of the tattoo or make a small incision to reduce the possible risk of ink getting on the needle. A contraindication to epidural would be a raised or infected tattoo, or one that has not yet healed[4].

References

  1. American Pregnancy Association. (2023, September 20). Can you get a tattoo while pregnant? https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/tattoos/#:~:text=Although%20the%20risk%20is%20small,during%20the%20first%2012%20weeks 
  2. Kluger, N. (2012). Can a mother get a tattoo during pregnancy or while breastfeeding? European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 161(2), 234–235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2012.01.012
  3. Kluger, N. (2015). Contraindications for tattooing. In Current problems in dermatology (pp. 76–87). https://doi.org/10.1159/000369189 
  4. Kluger, N., & Sleth, J. (2020). Tattoo and epidural analgesia: Rise and fall of a myth. La Presse Médicale, 49(4), 104050. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lpm.2020.104050
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