Tattoos: Permanent and Henna

hands covered with henna tattooMaybe you've thought of remembering this special time in your life with a tattoo, or maybe you have concerns about tattoos that you already have. More than anything you want everything to be safe for you and your baby. This information will be helpful for you as you take care of the tattoos you already have and decide on tattoos that you may wish to get during your pregnancy.

First things first: SAFETY

Make sure that your tattoo artist follows or was following these guidelines:

  • They are a registered practitioner (if your state registers tattoo artists)
  • They always wear gloves during the procedure
  • They have an autoclave (sterilizing unit to sterilize equipment)
  • The floors and surfaces are all clean
  • All the needles used are new, disposable and made for single use only
  • The dressings are sterile packed and unopened
  • The dyes or ink used for the tattoo are also sterile packed and unopened
  • The artist is available the first 24 hours if you have any problems
  • Find out the availability of the artist if you have any problems in the days and months ahead.

If you have a tattoo and question the practices of the facility where you had it done, make sure your doctor tests you for Hepatitis, HIV, and Syphilis.

Think It Through

As you well know, your body is changing drastically! You are gaining weight, and you just had to buy another new bra! Consider WHERE you would want this remembrance of your pregnancy? A tattoo that looks smooth, symmetrical, and is a beautiful display of color pre-pregnancy, might look lopsided, faded, and distorted after you get your body back. You might want to stick with places that will swell the least such as feet, toes, and neck (although there is no guarantee you won't have to keep your feet propped up for the rest of your pregnancy due to swelling).

You will be very interested to know that little to no information is available about the safety of skin dyes used for tattooing during pregnancy. It is possible that the chemicals in the dye may affect the development of the baby during the first 12 weeks, but the risks are unknown, as are any affects on the baby during the remainder of the pregnancy. It would probably by wise to delay having a tattoo done until after your baby is born.

Even while breastfeeding your breasts will be changing and your immunity to infection is lower. Ultimately it's your decision, but you may want to wait until you are done with breastfeeding and your body is as close to it's original form before getting a new tattoo.

What About Henna?

For thousands of years, women in Egypt, India, and much of the Middle East have brought "good luck" to their pregnancies by applying beautiful designs of henna on their pregnant bellies in the 7th-9th months. Legends say henna will bring safety in childbirth and a happy baby (it's worth a try). Women have used pure henna as cosmetics for centuries and it's one of the safest things you can put on your skin.

If you are interested in this temporary alternative, be aware that there are different types of henna. Natural, safe henna stains the skin orange, red, brown, cinnamon, brick, chocolate or coffee, and can last one to four weeks. Natural, safe henna does not come in a black color. You want to be absolutely sure the artist is using pure, natural products, and NOT black henna. Black henna is not safe for anyone, pregnant or not. Black henna contains para-phenylendiamine (PPD), which causes burns, blisters and various reactions that may last for months and is difficult to diagnose and treat. Use of natural henna can be fun and it's not permanent. It might just help you decide on a tattoo for after your baby is here!

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association.