Tattoos During Pregnancy: Your Questions Answered

When getting tattoos during pregnancy, there's a possibility of contracting diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV, so it's best to avoid it.
Tattoos During Pregnancy: Your Questions Answered
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Reviewed and approved by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 24 November, 2022

Getting tattoos during pregnancy is one of the concerns that arise in women at this stage of life. Not only because of the possibility of the drawing becoming deformed by the distension and retraction of the skin but also because of the risk of infection involved. But, is it advisable to get a tattoo at this stage? In this article, we’ll answer all your questions.

Can tattoos trigger an infection during pregnancy?

The hygiene at tattoo parlors varies from one establishment to the next, and some don’t meet the minimum safety standards in terms of keeping needles and equipment clean. In fact, needles that aren’t properly sterilized can transmit infections like HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. This is described by the American Pregnancy Association.

Once tattoos are done, they don’t need to be disinfected, but washed with soap and water and moisturized several times a day for three weeks. In addition, during pregnancy, the immune system is weakened, which makes it more susceptible to infections.

A woman getting a tattoo on her arm.
Safety and hygiene measures are fundamental, especially during pregnancy. It’s key that needles are properly sterilized and equipment clean in order to avoid infections.

Characteristics of an infected tattoo

Contracting diseases is very risky for pregnant women, as they can be transmitted to the babies at the time of delivery. Some of the symptoms include fever, joint pain, and tiredness. In most cases, infections are easy to treat, but it’s best to avoid the risk of contracting more complex infections, such as those caused by staphylococcus. It’s a good idea to consult your healthcare provider immediately for the following signs of infection:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Pus in the tattoo
  • Foul-smelling discharge from the tattoo

Skin changes during pregnancy

The hormonal alteration that occurs during pregnancy generates changes in the skin. Therefore, tattoos located on the hips and abdomen may be affected by skin distension or striae gravidarum. According to a paper in the journal Amercian Family Physician, various conditions can appear that make the skin surface more sensitive:

  • Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP): Ranges from an erythematous rash to edema and plaques of pimple-like bumps located on the trunk, stomach, arms, and legs.
  • Prurigo during pregnancy: This is an itchy rash formed by papules that may last for several months after delivery.
  • Impetigo herpetiformis: A rare condition that begins in the second half of pregnancy.

Hormonal alterations can also cause hyperpigmentation in certain areas of the body. In this regard, the most characteristic is melasma or “pregnancy mask“. Also, tattoos can be modified after childbirth due to the evident distension of the skin all over the body.

How to get tattoos during pregnancy safely

If a pregnant woman decides to get a tattoo, some precautions can be taken to make the experience as safe as possible. Ideally, you should prioritize the following hygiene and care practices:

  • The place must have an autoclave, which is a machine that sterilizes equipment and needles.
  • Spaces should be clean and tattoo and piercing areas separated.
  • Needles should be in individual packages and opened in front of each person before the procedure.
  • The tattooist should wear latex gloves throughout the procedure.
  • Inks used for tattooing should be in a sterile container.

Although the needle only goes into the superficial layers of the skin, some inks used contain heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic.

Getting a tattoo shouldn’t affect the epidural, although it could interfere if it’s in the process of healing or an infection has occurred. Therefore, it would be better to have it done after delivery.

Can I have an epidural if I have a tattoo in that area?

There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that a tattoo in the lumbar region can interfere with the application of an epidural. In fact, injections go up to two millimeters deep, while tattoo pigment goes deeper.

Also, if the birth plan includes an epidural, it is best to wait until after delivery to get the tattoo. This is because if the tattoo is in the process of healing or is infected, it would be inconvenient. In general, the complete healing of tattoos usually takes about four weeks.

The decision to get a tattoo can wait

If you feel unsure or uncomfortable about getting tattoos during pregnancy, opt out. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. In fact, with the possibility of contracting diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV, it’s better not to take the risk. In conclusion, there’s a probability of infection with a tattoo and the best way to keep the pregnant woman healthy is to wait until postpartum.

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