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Can you get a tattoo if you're pregnant?

This is a henna tattoo, which is temporary and only penetrates the outer skin layer. But is it safe to get permanent ink when you're pregnant?
This is a henna tattoo, which is temporary and only penetrates the outer skin layer. But is it safe to get permanent ink when you're pregnant?

For many women, pregnancy is a beautiful time in their lives. Some want to commemorate this moment with an everlasting piece of art, like a tattoo. Of course, as with everything you put into your body while pregnant (since you are putting ink into your skin), you should weigh the risks.

As of 2015, no studies exist about the effects of tattoo ink on fetal health and development. However, certain side effects, reactions or infections can occur during the tattoo process, which is why many doctors (and tattoo artists) recommend against getting inked while pregnant.

During the course of pregnancy, a woman's body changes in unpredictable ways. The texture of her hair, her sense of smell and the sensitivity of her skin may all be different than they were pre-pregnancy. Even if you were tattooed before you got pregnant without a problem, there's no way of knowing if you might have an allergic reaction during pregnancy. An allergic reaction can range from mild to life-threatening, and as an expectant mother, it may not be worth it to find out.

General Tattoo Safety

These tips apply to anyone thinking about getting a tattoo. Always check out your potential tattoo shop and artist for safety and health considerations. Get referrals first, ask to see your artist's license and then ensure the following:

  • The shop and tattooing area should be clean.
  • Your artist should always wear gloves from a sterile box.
  • All needles, tools, dyes and containers should be opened -- unused -- in front of you.
  • The needles are single-use and disposable.
  • Any reusable tools should be sterilized in an autoclave.

If a shop or artist fails to follow these rules, you put yourself (and your unborn child) at risk for infections like hepatitis B and C and HIV. If you do get inked and later feel the artist's safety practices were questionable, see a doctor and get tested for an infectious blood disease.

Tattoo Safety and Issues During Pregnancy

Because there are no long-term studies on the effects of tattoo inks during pregnancy, we don't know if they affect the fetus. Here are a few things that we do know:

  • Take care when considering a lower back tattoo, as some hospitals have policies against administering epidurals at fresh tattoo sites.
  • Because the tattoo process can cause adrenaline to spike and affect blood sugar, you will need to bring drinks and snacks.
  • Remember that pregnancy will cause your skin to stretch, so choose the area for your tattoo accordingly.
  • Many tattoo shops don't want to take the legal risk of inking a pregnant woman, so you may be refused. Typically, most women who get tattoos are asked to sign a waiver stating they are not pregnant.

With these issues in mind, you're better prepared for a discussion with your obstetrician -- and your tattoo artist.