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Is it ok to get a tattoo when pregnant? Here’s what you need to know

There are so many things that you immediately cross off the list once you become pregnant that it’s hard to keep track of what you’re actually allowed to do. So if you’re confused about whether you can add some ink whilst pregnant, we’ve got all the answers below. Read on…

What is a tattoo?

A tattoo is a permanent design or mark made on the skin by injecting ink or pigments. It’s a form of body art that has been practiced for centuries in various cultures around the world. Tattoos can be purely decorative or carry symbolic, cultural, religious, or personal meanings.

What is the process of getting a tattoo?

Getting a tattoo involves a needle rapidly puncturing the skin and putting ink into the middle layer of skin in your body. The pncturing creates a controlled wound and the body’s natural healing process helps to form the permanent design.

Is it safe to get a tattoo when pregnant?

It is generally not recommended to get a tattoo while pregnant anywhere on your body. Pregnancy is a sensitive time for both you and the developing baby and there are potential risks associated with getting a tattoo during this period.

The main concern is the risk of infection. During pregnancy, your immune system undergoes changes to accommodate the developing baby. This can make you more at risk of infections. Tattooing involves needles and may cause breaks in the skin, which could increase the risk of bacterial or viral infections.

Also, some tattoo inks may contain ingredients that are not well-studied in terms of their effects on a developing baby. While many tattoo inks are considered safe, there is still limited research on their potential impact during pregnancy. The process itself of getting a tattoo can also be physically and emotionally stressful, which may not be ideal for your well-being whilst pregnant.

Is it OK to get a tattoo if I’m breastfeeding?

Again, it’s generally recommended to wait until after you have finished breastfeeding before getting a tattoo. While there is no concrete evidence to show that tattoo ink can harm a breastfeeding baby, there are some potential risks and considerations to keep in mind:

  • Infection risk: Tattooing involves piercing the skin, creating an open wound that could increase the risk of infection. While the risk of infection is generally low when proper hygiene and aftercare measures are followed, it could still pose a potential risk to baby.  
  • Pain and stress: The process of getting a tattoo can be physically and emotionally stressful. Stress can potentially impact milk production or the composition of breast milk.
  • Potential ink transfer: Although the risk is likely low, there is a possibility that small amounts of tattoo ink could enter the bloodstream and may end up in breast milk.

If you decide to get a tattoo while breastfeeding, make sure to choose a reputable tattoo artist who follows strict hygiene practices. Proper aftercare is essential to minimise the risk of infection.

Do tattoos change during pregnancy?

Yes, pre-pregnancy tattoos can undergo changes during pregnancy. This is because the skin experiences various physiological and hormonal changes during pregnancy, which can affect the appearance of tattoos. Some common changes include:

  • Stretching of the skin: As the baby grows and the abdomen expands, the skin stretches to accommodate the increased size. This stretching can cause the tattoo shape to change, especially if it is located on the belly area. After pregnancy, once the skin returns to its pre-pregnancy state, the tattoo may also return to its original appearance.
  • Weight gain: Some women experience weight gain during pregnancy, which can lead to changes in the body’s contours. If the tattoo is in an area affected by weight gain, it may appear different due to the changes in the skin and underlying tissues.
  • Skin discoloration: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can sometimes cause hyperpigmentation or darkening of the skin, a condition known as melasma or chloasma. In some cases, this darkening may affect the tattooed area, making the colours appear less vibrant.
  • Swelling: Pregnancy-related swelling, especially in the hands, feet, and ankles, can impact tattoos in those areas. The swelling may temporarily distort the tattoo’s appearance, but it usually resolves after the baby is born.
  • Sensitivity: Some pregnant women report increased skin sensitivity during pregnancy. If the tattooed area becomes more sensitive, it may be uncomfortable or painful.

Not all women experience significant changes in their tattoos during pregnancy, and the degree of change can vary from person to person. After pregnancy, many of these changes tend to normalise as the body returns to its pre-pregnancy state.

I got a tattoo whilst pregnant. What do I do?

If you got a tattoo while pregnant or suspect you might be pregnant shortly after getting a tattoo, it’s essential to take certain precautions and seek medical advice. First up, let your midwife know about your new ink so they can advise you about next steps. It’s super important to look after the tattoo, especially in the early days. You should keep the area clean, avoid direct sunlight and definitely, definitely do not scratch or pick at the scab.

Continue to pay close attention to your body and  monitor for any unusual symptoms or signs of infection in the tattooed area. If you notice any redness, swelling, warmth, excessive pain, or discharge, report it to your GP or midwife immediately.

Remember that every pregnancy is unique, and individual circumstances may vary. The primary concern is the well-being of the developing baby, so being proactive and discussing the situation with your midwife or GP is crucial if you find yourself in this situation.

Is tattoo removal OK during pregnancy?

Tattoo removal procedures usually involve the use of laser technology to break down the tattoo ink in the skin. While there is no definitive evidence that laser tattoo removal is harmful when pregnant, it is generally not recommended due to safety concerns about the high-intensity light energy of the laser.

To ensure the safety of your baby and your own well-being, we recommend consulting with your GP or midwife before getting or removing a tattoo while pregnant or breastfeeding. They can evaluate your specific situation and provide personalised advice based on your health status and individual circumstances. It’s generally recommended to wait until after pregnancy and the breastfeeding period if you still wish to get a tattoo.

Sources:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jmwh.12967

Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.

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