Tattoos During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Tattoos During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Eating raw sushi. Engaging in core workouts. Using certain skincare ingredients. As exciting as pregnancy can be, it comes with a long list of things that teeter the line of what is acceptable and what should be widely avoided. One matter most experts recommend putting off until after the baby is born is getting a tattoo. Tattoos are not inherently risky and there are no definitive guidelines against getting one while pregnant, but pregnancy introduces a unique set of circumstances to consider, and these factors should be thoughtfully considered before getting inked, says Dr. Anna Chacon, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology.

Expert Tip: If you have gotten the stamp of approval from your doctor and have plans to get a tattoo, know that you may be more susceptible to skin sensitivity. If you are apprehensive about any potential pain, Zensa Numbing Creamis a steroid-free topical cream that will help make for a more comfortable experience, especially if you are getting a tattoo on an area of the body that is more sensitive. It is made of maximum strength 5% lidocaine along with vitamin E, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to speed up wound healing. Zensa only needs 30 to 45 minutes to take effect and is best applied generously in a half-inch thick layer (do not rub in).

Is it Safe to Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?

According to Dr. Chacon, if you want a tattoo but are planning on getting pregnant, it is advisable to do so before you conceive. If you are already pregnant, it would be best to wait until after the baby is born. "Tattoos involve the insertion of colored pigments into the skin's dermis layer," says Dr. Chacon. "While there is no specific law or guideline that prohibits tattoos during pregnancy, it may be advisable to wait until after delivery to get a tattoo." The reason: potential risks like infection, increased skin sensitivity and the potential for the tattoo to appear different post-delivery.

While Dr. Chacon recommends against getting a tattoo at any stage of pregnancy due to these potential risks, the first trimester is particularly crucial as it is the "period of most rapid development for the fetus, and any potential risks or infections could have serious implications," she notes.

What Are the Risks of Getting a Tattoo While Pregnant?

Increased Skin Sensitivity

Thanks to hormonal fluctuations, the skin becomes more sensitive during pregnancy, which could potentially make the tattooing process more uncomfortable and even painful, says Dr. Chacon. This sensitivity could also bring about allergic reactions that are not usually present pre-pregnancy, and usually presents itself as itchiness, rashes or changes in skin color. Your skin may already be experiencing tightness and itchiness as it stretches, which can further add to the discomfort of getting a tattoo. Plus, certain areas of the body, such as the ribs, hands, feet, neck and inner thigh, are more painful to get a tattoo on due to the fact that "these areas have more nerve endings and less fat to cushion the impact of the tattoo needle," says Dr. Chacon.


Possible causes of a tattoo infection include non-sterile needles, contaminated ink, improper aftercare, allergic reactions or a weakened immune system, says Dr. Chacon. Pregnant women have a slightly weakened immune system to prevent the body from rejecting the fetus, which may increase the risk of infection after getting a tattoo. Plus, because the immune system is naturally suppressed during pregnancy, it may struggle to fight off potential infections if one occurs after a tattoo session, says Dr. Chacon.

In many cases, an infection could make it necessary to introduce a course of antibiotics. Some studies have pointed to the negative effects of using certain antibiotics during pregnancy, and it is only recommended to use them with a confirmed infection. In any case, if you get a tattoo while you are in your first trimester, you should avoid taking an antibiotic in the case of an infection, as "this is the period of fetal structural development and therefore the highest risk for iatrogenic teratogenicity” (potential harm to a fetus caused by medical treatment), says one study.

Aside from unsanitary conditions, the tattoo ink itself can present a risk. "There is limited research on the safety of tattoo ink during pregnancy and it is unlikely that tattoo ink can reach the fetus, however, due to potential risks of infection and the fact that some tattoo inks contain heavy metals, it is generally recommended to avoid getting a tattoo while pregnant altogether," says Dr. Chacon.

A few telltale signs you have an infection post-tattooing are swelling, redness, pus or increased pain around the tattoo. Fever and chills could also indicate a systemic infection, notes Dr. Chacon. "If you suspect an infection, you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if the area around the tattoo is warm to touch, extremely red or swollen or if you see red streaks spreading from the tattoo," says Dr. Chacon. "If left untreated, the infection can spread to the bloodstream causing sepsis, which can lead to premature birth or miscarriage."

Appearance of Tattoo

With pregnancy comes several physical changes, including weight gain and stretched skin to accommodate blood, fluids and the growing baby. Getting a tattoo while the skin is going through such changes could alter the appearance of your tattoo once you have given birth, especially if you plan on getting one near your mid-section, back, breasts, pelvis or flanks.

If you are pregnant with an existing tattoo, you may experience changes in skin pigmentation due to hormonal shifts, which can lead to darker or lighter areas surrounding the tattoo. Depending on your skin elasticity as well as the tattoo's location, size and design, you should expect your tattoo to return to a normal appearance after pregnancy. Keep in mind, though, that if you have a tattoo on an area of the body that is prone to significant stretching during pregnancy (like the abdomen), there is a higher chance of the tattoo becoming distorted or stretched.


If you are pregnant and wanting to get a tattoo, you should always consult with your doctor before moving forward. Potential harm from a tattoo during pregnancy includes a risk of infection, allergic reaction to the ink and possible transmission of bloodborne diseases if the tattoo parlour does not follow proper hygiene practices, says Dr. Chacon. Your skin is also more sensitive to pain during pregnancy, so getting a tattoo could make for a more uncomfortable experience. Plus, your skin is prone to stretching while pregnant, which could affect the appearance of your tattoo post-delivery.


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