Can You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant? 5 Reasons Not To

Written by: Claudia
Updated:

Going through a pregnancy means 40 weeks of adapting your life and making changes that are the best for the health of you and your baby. So how do tattoos play into these adjustments? We dive into whether or not you should get a tattoo while pregnant and what you put at risk if you decide to get inked.

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Should You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?

We hate to be the bearer of bad news but no, tattoos are definitely something you should avoid during your 40 weeks of pregnancy. In fact, if you intend to breastfeed after your pregnancy, you should also delay your tattoo until your child weans off of you.

Although tattoos are generally safe and regulated procedures, there are numerous risks that could be involved with regards to getting a tattoo while pregnant.

Reasons for Not Getting a Tattoo During Pregnancy

Even if you go to the cleanest and more professional shop and opt for the most expensive artist, there are still a few risks you need to be aware of.

Risk of Infections

The primary reason you should avoid getting a tattoo during pregnancy is that your immune system is in a weakened mode and it sends it’s most nutrients, white blood cells, oxygen, and protection to your baby. This increases your risk of infection during and after the tattoo procedure.

Regardless of how sanitized or up-to-regulation standards your shop or artist is, even your aftercare procedure could be compromised and put you and especially your baby at risk. There is a reason you shouldn’t eat sushi, salads from restaurants, or unpasteurized cheese; like tattoos, these all have the potential to exposure your baby to infection which could lead to permanent growth issues, or worse, miscarriage.

One of the largest infection concerns with tattooing and pregnancy is an increased risk of contracting hepatitis which is then transmitted to your baby during birth. The CDC states, “Ninety percent of babies who contract hepatitis B develop lifelong, chronic infection. One in four children with untreated, chronic hepatitis will eventually die of related health problems. Likewise, HIV transmits from mother to child in about 15 to 45% of cases. This virus compromises the immune system and can cause failure to thrive in children.“

Tattoo Ink Affecting the Baby

Did you know that tattoo ink is not regulated by the FDA? Unfortunately, this means that pigments, no matter if they are labeled sterile, could potentially contain harmful or toxic chemicals, or heavy metals, that could gravely injure your unborn child.

When you are pregnant, you will notice an increase in your blood pressure because your blood is flowing towards your uterus to help your baby grow and to nourish them. Your baby’s blood even gets mixed into your own bloodstream (which means you carry two sets of DNA while you are pregnant!). This, unfortunately, means that anything that enters your bloodstream, such as ink pigment deposited in your dermis, will also enter the baby’s bloodstream, putting them at risk.

Discomfort

Growing a human is no walk in the park, and along with high stress levels, strange aches and pains you’ve never felt before, and the potential for sickness and nausea, you don’t want to add yet another stressful situation to your plate.

When you get a tattoo, you are essentially getting a surgical procedure and your skin is put under immense amounts of trauma. Your adrenaline can kick in to combat this pain or stress. For someone already feeling the strain, adding another level of discomfort could be your breaking point. In addition, your hormone levels could cause a reaction to the session that is unexpected and awful.

Tattoo Artist Michaelle Fiore says, “Getting tattooed compromises the immune system by creating an open wound, inflicting pain, and, depending on the session itself, forcing you to sit in uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time.”

Tattoo Ink Allergies

With every single tattoo, no matter how many you’ve had even with the same artist or in the same shop, or using the same brand of ink, you open yourself up to the potential of having an ink allergy. Every wound is different, and our body can react to each session differently. This is especially amplified with a compromised immune system, raging hormones, and high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Getting a tattoo when pregnant could potentially cause a tattoo ink allergy you’ve never experienced before, which could become a whole-body issue, or could lead to infection.

Anesthetics

I’m sure you’ve heard the age-old rumor that having a back tattoo means you may not be able to get an epidural when you are giving birth - and there’s some truth to that!

Doctors can decide whether or not there is a risk with inserting an epidural through a tattooed region. But the greater risk for a pregnant woman getting a new tattoo is that they may be reluctant to give you an epidural at all, no matter where it is located. It could be considered, by some medical professionals, to be in a similar risk group as donating blood shortly after getting a new tattoo.

In addition, if you plan to give a natural birth or even a water birth, consider the fact that you will either be submerged in water or covered with wet cloths which put your tattoo at risk of infection, as well.

Precautions if You Choose to Get Tattooed While Pregnant

If, despite all these warnings, you still decide to go ahead with your tattoo while pregnant, you should keep a few things in mind.

  • Legally, you should tell your artist you are pregnant and you need to be aware that you may be refused service.
  • Understand the serious risks involved and the potential for the illness or loss of your unborn baby.
  • Ensure you are selecting a shop with prevalent sanitation certifications and licenses available in their shop. Make sure to check the ingredient list of the ink being used, and ensure needles are sterile and one-time use.
  • Make sure your artist goes above and beyond with regards to cleaning the space, your skin, and their hands.
  • Stay away from apprenticeship training for this tattoo; there is too much at stake.
  • Aftercare must be handled even more carefully following your tattoo. Have a look at our articles, How Do I Clean My New Tattoo? - An Ink Aftercare Guide and Tattoo Aftercare Advice - How Do I Care For My Tattoo?

Is It Okay to Get a Tattoo After Pregnancy?

Now you’ve given birth and you’re ready to memorialize this amazing event in the form of a new tattoo; who could even blame you!? Remember that you are still in recovery following birth, especially if your immune system is working overtime to heal a cesarean surgery. You may wish to wait a month or two before diving into your artist’s chair.

If you’re now a nursing mother, you’ll want to wait even longer.

Breastfeeding Risks

As we mentioned, if you intend to breastfeed after your birth, all the risks associated with pregnancy continue into breastfeeding. It’s for this reason that breastfeeding mothers are also warned against smoking or drinking post-pregnancy as well. Everything that goes into your body is transmitted to your baby via your breastmilk, and so this is something to be aware of if you are nursing.

Our Final Thoughts

Though risks may be as minimal as contracting bacteria from a salad at your favorite restaurant, they still exist, and they put the health and life of your unborn child in danger. Though it is ultimately your personal decision and we understand the tattoo itch could be great, it’s always better to wait it out and book a session after you’ve given birth. In addition, most reputable shops will refuse you service if you are pregnant, so it’s better not to settle for a shop that is willing to put you or your baby in danger for a quick buck.

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