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Is it Safe to Get a Tattoo During Pregnancy?

Dianna Graveman | 6, February 2012


Body art has become more popular and commonplace in the past decade, and recent years have seen a trend develop in which expectant mothers celebrate, recognize, and document their impending motherhood by acquiring a tattoo--possibly one they've designed themselves. This is not actually a new trend, but a variation of one that women in Egypt, India, and parts of the Middle East have practiced for thousands of years by applying natural henna designs on their abdomens for good luck and a safe delivery.

But is it safe to get a traditional tattoo while pregnant? According to the American Pregnancy Association, the first thing you should do before making a decision is to investigate the tattoo artist and his or her facility.

  • Make sure the artist is a state-registered practitioner, if your state provides such registration.
  • Observe the artist at work.
  • Does she always wear gloves during procedures?
  • Is there an autoclave (sterilizing unit), and is it consistently used to sterilize the equipment?
  • Are the floors and surfaces clean?
  • Are only new, single-use needles used and disposed of immediately afterward?
  • Check to make sure that both the dressings and the inks or dyes are sealed in sterile packaging and that they have not been opened prior to a procedure.

If, after observing your artist, you have any concern about a previous tattoo you may have received in either this facility or another one, contact your health care provider and get tested for Hepatitis and HIV.

Confirm that the tattoo artist will be available to you for the first 24 hours after the procedure in case you have a problem. Also, how will you contact him and how available will he be in the weeks and months ahead if a complication develops?
The American Pregnancy Association also reminds pregnant women that very little is known about the affect of inks and dyes, if any, on a developing fetus, especially during the first 12 weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( says studies have not shown hepatitis C to be a concern with licensed, commercial facilities. However, hepatitis and other diseases are possible when the safe practices mentioned above are not carefully followed. The CDC also states that a pregnant woman infected with hepatitis C rarely passes the disease to her baby, and that only four out of every hundred children born to women with hepatitis C are infected. But the risk does increase if the mother has both hepatitis C and HIV.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has a more dire warning on its site which states that piercings and tattoos carry a risk of tetanus, hepatitis B, C, and D, herpes, human papillomavirus, and possibly HIV. ACOG suggests additional complications can include "local skin irritation, keloids and granulomas, and allergic reactions to dyes or metals."

A few additional considerations before you get that tattoo: A lower back tattoo might affect your ability to receive an epidural during labor if the design covers a large area and the skin has not completely healed, according to Dr. Roger W. Harms, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic. If you have a large lower back tattoo, he says, the anesthesiologist will probably attempt to insert the epidural needle through skin that isn't tattooed or try to nick the skin before beginning the procedure to be sure no dye pigments get trapped in the needle. He suggests you may want to consider, if you have this type of tattoo, asking in advance about other available forms of pain relief during labor.

And finally, consider the growth of your abdomen, stretch marks, and the future appearance of your tattoo. Moisturizers, baby oil, and special creams to prevent or minimize stretch marks can help, if applied at least twice each day. If an existing tattoo does stretch and become distorted by pregnancy, it can probably be touched up by a qualified artist. Wait until you have finished having children and you are as close to your regular body weight and shape as possible before seeking a touch-up artist, and realize that any textural changes that accompany stretch marks may linger.

As with any procedure performed during pregnancy, consult with your health care provider before proceeding.

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