Piercings and Tattoos During Pregnancy

by Pregnancy.org Staff

There are many reasons why people get tattoos and piercings. Some common ones are:

  • Self expression

    "I think as long as they are tactful they are art." ~~Carrie

  • To remember a memorable event or person

    "To remind me where I have been and that I don't want to return to that point." -Bruce

  • To feel unique

    "I had my tongue pierced way back when and as soon as it became mainstream I took mine out, and now I have my tragus pierced, when it becomes popular, out it will come." -Dawn

    "They are a way to express your individuality. Celtic knots look really neat, and a tattooed ankle won't hook on stuff." -Julie

  • As a sign of rebellion or independence

    "For the most part I got mine for freedom but yes, rebellion, too." -Carrie

Sometimes people regret getting tattoos and piercings.

"I got my first tat when I was 18. I think I got it because I could. I got the second 2 weeks later, and thought it was cool. I hate them both now and I will be having them lasered off. I am actually taking my son with me to show him what I have to go through to get rid of a stupid mistake." -Teresa

I am Pregnant and Have a Piercing -- Now What?

Navel Piercings

"I had a belly ring when I got pregnant with my son, took it out the night I found out. I was pretty stressed about being pregnant and figured now is better than later with taking it out. Got it done again after he was born, guy did it off center, took it out again, and then got it done again through scar tissue -- OUCHY! Took it out over a year ago because of gallbladder surgery and never put it back in." -Jessica

A common concern is if you should remove your navel piercing if you are pregnant. You shouldn't need to remove it although you might want to consider seeing a professional piercer and changing it to a flexible bar (a PTFE bar). Your ring will be tight as your skin stretches, which will irritate the piercing and cause it to heal out due to the pressure. The soft flexible bar will prevent this from happening. How long you have had your piercing and how big your belly gets also has an effect. As a guideline, if the area around your piercing changes color and is a darker red than normal, change it to a flexible bar. It is not painful to change it.

Tongue or Genital Piercings
Rings that are not large in diameter are good choices to wear as your baby should be able to deliver past your piercings without affecting the delivery. A bar in the clitoris or hood can be uncomfortable if it becomes entangled during delivery. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you are concerned about the size and affect your piercings might have during delivery.

If you are having a cesarean section, you should not need to remove your piercings as they can be taped. The only exception is a tongue piercing. A tongue bar might cause problems for the anesthetist if it becomes necessary to put a tube down your throat. It would be advisable to wear a flexible bar although some anesthetists might ask you to remove your tongue piercing.

"Have my tongue pierced, over 3 years. I was supposed to take it out during labor and delivery but I kind of forgot to. Luckily I didn't have any problems." -Jesse and Jessica

I am Pregnant and Have a Tattoo - Now What?

A pregnancy will affect your tattoo in different ways, depending on the placement. If your tattoo is near the stomach area, not only can it stretch, but there is no guarantee that it will go back to its original shape after the birth of your baby. Tattoos are definitely affected by stretch marks. Chances are if your mother or grandmother had stretch marks, you will too.

"When I was 18, I got a four-leaf clover on my pelvis. About three years later, I became pregnant and noticed that I now had a six-leaf clover. The clovers have all stretched and it looks like one green blob. I can't wait to have it removed." -Teresa

"I got my tattoo when I was 2 weeks pregnant and didn't have a clue I was! It's on my lower back and I was very worried about it getting distorted since it was new and being in a stretchy spot. I gained 50 pounds and luckily it's still perfect!" -Jess

Intricate designs such as tribal pieces, Celtic knots and geometric designs (such as circles) could wind up distorted, or worse, a blob. Simple designs such as clouds may look better.

If your tattoo is in the small of your back, it should not prevent you from getting an epidural. The ink from the tattoo is a permanent part of the dermis of the skin. The epidural needle passes through the epidermis, dermis and into an area near your spinal cord quite easily. You might want to consult with your doctor and anesthesiologist to see what they recommend if you have concerns.

I'm Pregnant and Want a Tattoo/Piercing

It is not advisable to have any body decoration procedure that would involve breaking the skin while you are pregnant. This includes procedures like piercing, tattooing or scarification. Most studios have made it a policy not to perform tattoos or piercings on anyone pregnant or breastfeeding. When you get a tattoo or piercing, you face a small chance of an allergic reaction or an infection. It just isn't worth the risk when you can just wait a few extra months and then get the tattoo or piercing you desire.

Any invasive procedure normally involves a small risk of infection. If you are pregnant, this might adversely affect your baby. You also risk contracting a blood borne disease if the needles used are not properly sterilized or are contaminated in some way. Your body is changing and you have enough to worry about without the added worry of caring for a new piercing. It is better to have a piercing completely healed before becoming pregnant; otherwise it might not heal properly until after your baby is born.

"I wouldn't recommend getting a tattoo while pregnant. All causes of infection are to be avoided during pregnancy, as your immune system does not work the way it normally does. Even minor infections should be treated promptly during pregnancy. Anything that could even potentially result in an infection in the blood is particularly to be avoided, so that would include getting a tattoo. Fortunately, pregnancy does not last very long, and waiting a few weeks or months is a very small price to pay to protect your child's health." -Cynthia Flynn, CNM

Pregnancy doesn't mean the end of your tattoo or piercing!

Being pregnant doesn't spell the end of your tattoos and piercings. If you take good care of your piercings during your pregnancy you will still have them afterward. Take precautions during labor and delivery to safeguard yourself and your baby -- you'd hate having your hood or clitoris tearing because the piercing got caught somewhere!

Similarly, when you want to get a tattoo, have it done in a place that won't stretch or have a simple design done. That way, the tattoo should remain relatively unharmed by stretch marks.

Above all, have procedures done before planning a pregnancy, or afterward. The risk of contracting an infection, which could possibly affect your baby, is not worth satisfying your desire to have a tattoo or piercing immediately.

If you have concerns or questions about tattoos or piercings, it's always best to talk to your doctor, healthcare provider or midwife.

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