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"Getting a tattoo during pregnancy is generally considered safe," says Dr. Carolyn Ross, OBGYN and medical advisor at Stix of the risks of getting a tattoo. "While it's important to approach any decision regarding your body during pregnancy with caution, no medical evidence suggests that getting a tattoo poses a direct risk to the baby's health or development."
But that doesn't mean getting a tattoo at any time during your pregnancy is ideal. It's more nuanced than that according to medical professionals. "Many healthcare providers recommend waiting until the second trimester to get a tattoo. By this time, the risk of complications, such as miscarriage or birth defects, is significantly reduced."
While it sounds easy enough to run out for some sweet ink, tattoo artist Victoria Hudgins actually advises against tattoos while pregnant.
"When you're expecting, your body goes through a lot of changes," says Hudgins. "Your skin, in particular, gets stretched and might alter the look of the tattoo. Plus, getting a tattoo does cause some stress on the body, which isn't ideal when you're pregnant."
The American Pregnancy Association adds that the real concern is the risk of infection if tools aren't sterile or clean. As with any medical decision during pregnancy, it's best to clear with your OBGYN first.
Considering tattoo ink seeps into the bloodstream, the answer to crossing the placenta is complicated and the jury is out on how it may affect your baby.
"While there is currently no scientific evidence that suggests that the ink used in tattoos can cross the placenta, there are still some risks associated with this procedure," says Dr. Nisarg Patel, MBBS, MS (Obstetrics & Gynecology) at ClinicSpots.
"If a pregnant woman has an infection due to the tattooing process, this could potentially put the unborn baby at risk. A pregnant woman's immune system could be compromised due to her condition, making her more susceptible to infections and other complications from getting a tattoo."
If that tattoo appointment can't wait, pregnant women should take precautions.
"I always advise clients to consult with their doctor first before deciding to get a tattoo," Hudgins, who's worked with nursing moms, says. "Just like during pregnancy, your body is changing while you're breastfeeding and it's best to make sure those changes won't have an adverse effect."
"Choose a reputable and professional tattoo artist that is licensed, experienced, and follows strict hygiene practices," says Ross. "Verify that their equipment is properly sterilized, as infections can be a concern during pregnancy."
If all looks safe, Ross says to consider the placement and size of the tattoo. You shouldn't get anything over your growing belly.
"Ensure you're physically comfortable during the process," says Ross. "Take breaks as needed, stay hydrated, and listen to your body. If you experience any unusual discomfort or pain, don't hesitate to inform the tattoo artist or consult your healthcare provider."
Remember, everyone's pregnancy is unique, so it's crucial to discuss your specific situation with your obstetrician. They will be able to provide personalized advice based on your medical history and any potential risks associated with your pregnancy.
Hudgins says yes — but choose your artist wisely.
"I've worked with clients who had stretch marks, and I've seen some incredible transformations," says Hudgins of the marks left after serious skin stretching from rapid growth periods. "The artistry of tattooing can be a powerful tool in reclaiming your skin, though it does require a special touch."
The Mayo Clinic says you can contract various bloodborne diseases—including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), hepatitis B, and hepatitis C if the equipment is contaminated with infected blood.
If you've gotten a tattoo while pregnant and are experiencing worsening red, itchy bumps at the tattoo site, extreme redness and swelling, pus with foul-smelling drainage, worsening pain, or systemic symptoms like fevers and chills, you should go the to ER immediately.
Whether you're ready to commit to the ink while pregnant or not, the most important takeaway is to prioritize your and your baby's safety. Be sure to look for a hygienic, well-reviewed tattoo parlor should you decide to ink up ahead of baby's big arrival, and get your new art examined by a board-certified dermatologist after.
And yes—you should still run this decision by your OB-GYN first. They may have their own concerns (like allergic reactions) based on your own individual health needs and profile.
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