Every pregnant woman likes to commemorate her pregnancy in different ways. Some women make pregnancy belly casts and paint them; others like the idea of getting inked. Tattoos are a creative outlet for some women, but just how safe is getting a tattoo when you’re pregnant? Can you get a tattoo while pregnant? What does the medical community say about this subject?
Doctors and reputable medical organizations, such as the March of Dimes, DO NOT recommend that you get a tattoo while pregnant. They strongly urge all women to wait until after their baby is born before getting inked.
Getting Tattoos During Pregnancy – Risks and Health Concerns
There are several reasons why pregnant women should NOT get tattoos until after their baby is born:
- Risk of Hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS – If you happen to get inked at a dirty facility or a place that uses less than sterile needles, there is a risk that you can catch HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis B – a dangerous liver infection. Both of these diseases can be passed to your unborn baby during pregnancy, and they are transmitted through bodily fluids.
- No Epidural on Fresh Tattoo – If you have a fresh, or fairly new tattoo on your lower back, there is a good chance that your healthcare provider will refuse to give you an epidural for pain relief during labor and delivery. For an older tattoo, most hospitals will administer the epidural, but you should contact the hospital where you are delivery to find out their specific policy.
- Safety of Tattoo Dyes and Inks is Unknown – There has been little research studies done on how tattoo dyes and inks affect the unborn baby. Although small amounts of these dyes and inks are harmless to an adult, we do not know their safety in a tiny, developing baby, since fetuses are more vulnerable to all chemicals. For this reason, you may want to play it safe and avoid getting a tattoo until after pregnancy.
What about Existing Tattoos?
If you’re a pregnant woman with an existing tattoo, you shouldn’t worry about your baby’s health. Existing tattoos have no effect on your developing baby. However, if you get stretch marks while pregnant, they may leave your tattoo distorted and change its coloring.
To help prevent stretch marks and this discoloration, you should moisturize your skin daily when pregnant. Moisturizing in a circular motion twice a day may help your skin stretch more smoothly without the formation of stretch marks. Although there isn’t any scientific data that states that stretch mark creams actually prevent stretch marks, it is worth a try. (Stretch marks are sometimes genetic, and they can be hard to escape.)
Tips for a Safer Tattoo Experience While Pregnant
If you are determined to get a tattoo while pregnant, despite the health risks associated with it, make sure that you have safety in mind. You should always make sure that your tattoo artist is licensed and registered (if your state requires registration for tattoo artists).
When choosing the tattoo parlor, you need to check the floors and surfaces of the place and make sure that it is clean. Ask ahead of time to see if the parlor has a device called an autoclave – which is a machine that sterilizes tattoo equipment with heat and steam.
Tell the tattoo artist that you are pregnant. Double-check to make sure that all needles used are new and made for single use only. Don’t be afraid to ask to get this information. When you are pregnant, you don’t want to risk getting inked with dirty needles.
The tattoo artist that you choose needs to use new, unopened gloves, dressings, and other equipment.
Wait until the second trimester before getting inked. In the first trimester, you need to avoid getting inked due to the fact that your unborn baby’s major organs are developing.
Keep in mind that there is no 100 percent safe tattoo experience when pregnant. Due to the unknown safety of the dyes used – due to a lack of scientific studies to back up its safety – and the risk that a dirty needle or dirty equipment may have been used, it’s really best to wait to get tattooed AFTER your baby is born.
Henna Tattoos – A Safe Alternative
A safe alternative to traditional needle-and-ink tattoos is henna tattoos. Women all around the globe have used henna safely for over five thousand years. Henna is a plant-based, temporary tattoo that can last for several months.
Because your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, you may have an allergic reaction to the dye. To avoid any problems, you may want to ask the henna artist to test a small area of your risk and wait a day or two to see how you react to it.
When getting a henna tattoo, make sure that you use natural henna – the reddish brown color. Avoid black henna – since it contains para-phenylendiamine (PPD).