Can You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant? Safety, Risks, and Precautions

Getting a tattoo can be an exciting experience for many people. But for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, a big question arises – is it safe to get a tattoo during pregnancy?

Tattoos involve breaking the skin with needles and injecting ink, so it’s understandable for expectant mothers to be concerned about potential risks to themselves and their baby. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine whether it’s okay to get a tattoo while pregnant, look at the possible dangers, and provide tips to reduce risks if you do choose to get inked.

Key Takeaways: Can You Get Tattooed While Pregnant?

  • While many women safely get tattoos during pregnancy, there are some increased health risks to be aware of. Consult your doctor first.
  • Potential complications include infection, allergic reaction, and impact on the immune system. Bloodborne illnesses and toxicity from chemicals in tattoo ink are also concerns.
  • Play it safe by choosing an experienced artist at a licensed, reputable tattoo shop that follows proper sanitation practices. This greatly reduces risks.
  • Get a tattoo in the second trimester when risks are lowest. Avoid large, complex multi-session tattoos. Choose locations with minimal pain and swelling.
  • Carefully follow aftercare instructions to allow proper healing and avoid infection. Keep the tattoo out of the sun and don’t soak in water during healing.

Is It Safe to Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?

Many women wonder – can I safely get a tattoo if I’m pregnant? There is no straight yes or no answer. Much depends on the mother’s health status, how far along the pregnancy is, and the size and location of the tattoo.

Small, minimal risk tattoos done by a licensed professional using a fresh needle in sanitary conditions during the second trimester are generally considered low risk by many doctors.

However, some medical experts recommend avoiding tattoos entirely during pregnancy as a precaution. There are increased health risks compared to getting a tattoo when not pregnant.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises women to delay any elective procedures like tattoos until after delivery. Getting a henna temporary tattoo is considered safer during pregnancy.

Ultimately whether to get a tattoo or not is a personal choice that the expectant mother should make in consultation with her obstetrician or healthcare provider.

Potential Dangers and Health Risks

So what exactly are the concerns about getting a tattoo during pregnancy? Here are some of the potential health risks and dangers:


One of the biggest worries is the risk of developing an infection. Because pregnancy naturally suppresses the immune system, expectant mothers are more susceptible to infections. An unclean needle or unsanitary conditions could lead to transmission of blood-borne illnesses.

The tattoo site itself is also vulnerable to infection during healing, which can last 2-4 weeks. Signs include excessive redness, swelling, oozing, and pus. Tattoo infections require urgent medical treatment.

Allergic Reactions

Pregnant women may be more sensitive to tattoo dyes, especially red pigments. The metal compounds commonly found in tattoo ink can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation in those with sensitivities.

Itching, burning, raised red rash, and hives around the tattoo can signal an allergic reaction. Topical steroid creams and oral antihistamines may be used to treat mild allergic reactions.

Toxic Chemicals in Tattoo Ink

Most tattoo inks contain metal salts and organic pigments. Aluminum, cadmium, mercury, lead and cobalt are heavy metals found in some tattoo pigments. Their toxicity and absorption into the bloodstream is a concern.

Tattoo inks also contain preservatives, stabilizers, and plasticizers that may be harmful. Very little research has been done on how these chemicals impact pregnant women and the developing fetus.

Blood Clots

Pregnancy already increases the risk of developing potentially dangerous blood clots. The minor trauma associated with getting a tattoo could further raise chances of clot formation.

Blood clots that result from tattoos are rare but can be life-threatening if they spread to the lungs or heart.

Pain and Swelling

Getting a tattoo is painful for anyone. But pregnant women tend to be more sensitive to pain. Weight gain and water retention during pregnancy can also increase swelling at the tattoo site.

Excessive swelling can delay healing and raise infection risk. For some women, the pain may cause so much discomfort and stress that it triggers preterm contractions.

Impact on Immune System

Pregnancy naturally suppresses the immune system to prevent rejection of the fetus. Getting a tattoo adds additional strain on the body’s defenses against illness right when they are most compromised.

The immune system has to work extra hard fighting infection at the tattoo site while also supporting the developing baby. This makes expectant mothers more vulnerable to sickness.

Bloodborne Diseases

An unsterilized or contaminated tattoo needle could transmit serious viral infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus, and HIV to the bloodstream.

Pregnant women are at greater risk of complications from these types of bloodborne illnesses, so avoiding any potential exposure is vital.

Tattoo Safety Precautions for Pregnant Women

While there are risks associated with getting a tattoo during pregnancy, taking proper precautions greatly minimizes the dangers. Here are some important safety tips to follow:

Consult Your Doctor First

Before getting any tattoo when pregnant, it’s essential to discuss risks and precautions with your obstetrician. Get their medical opinion on whether it’s safe based on your health status.

Choose an Experienced, Reputable Artist

Make sure your tattoo is done by a qualified, licensed artist at a tattoo shop with a solid reputation for following good hygiene practices. Avoid “scratcher” home tattooers.

The artist should demonstrate proper sterilization procedures for equipment and use brand new needles. You can ask to watch them unpack and assemble new needles.

Get Tattooed in Second Trimester

The risks of getting a tattoo are lowest during the second trimester months 4-6. The first trimester should be avoided since the fetus is still developing.

The third trimester brings discomfort and vulnerabilities that make healing more difficult. Getting a tattoo in the second trimester gives the best chance for proper healing before delivery.

Avoid Large, Complex Tattoos

It’s best to keep tattoos small and relatively quick when pregnant. Extensive multi-session tattoos are not recommended due to increased pain, swelling, and infection risk.

Small simple tattoos are safest – think along the lines of a wrist tattoo, ankle tattoo, or other delicate design. Save any big intricate tattoos for after giving birth.

Choose Location Carefully

Select a location on your body that will involve minimal pain and swelling. Fleshy areas like the upper arm, thigh, or shoulder are better than sensitive bony areas.

Avoid tattooing right over the abdomen,Stretch marks are also best avoided. Consider how a growing baby bump might distort the tattoo image later on.

Follow Proper Aftercare

Carefully follow your artist’s aftercare instructions to prevent infection and allow proper healing. Keep the bandage on for the recommended time then wash gently with mild unscented soap and water.

Avoid soaking the tattoo – no pools, baths, hot tubs, or swimming until fully healed. Don’t scratch or pick at peeling skin which can remove ink.

Avoid Sun Exposure

Keep your new tattoo completely out of the sun while healing. The sun can fade and blur the tattoo. Sunburn also impairs the skin’s healing ability. Wear loose clothing that covers the tattoo if going outside.

Answers to Common Questions About Tattoos and Pregnancy

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions pregnant women have about getting new tattoos:

Is It Legal to Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?

There are no laws prohibiting pregnant women from getting tattoos. However, many reputable artists will refuse to tattoo a visibly pregnant woman due to liability concerns. Some states do regulate tattooing of minors under 18 with parental consent required.

Can You Breastfeed After Getting a Tattoo?

Yes, getting a tattoo should not affect your ability to successfully breastfeed after giving birth. However it’s smart to avoid getting a tattoo directly near the breast or nipple area if you intend to breastfeed.

How Long Should You Wait After Giving Birth to Get a Tattoo?

Most doctors recommend waiting at least 6 months after giving birth to get a new tattoo. This gives your body time to fully recover and lowers infection risk. It also allows any stretch marks to fully form so you can tattoo around them.

Will a Tattoo Get Ruined from Pregnancy Body Changes?

It is possible that a tattoo, especially around the abdomen, hips, and breasts may get slightly distorted from pregnancy-related body changes like stretch marks and growth.

Choosing tattoo placement carefully can minimize potential distortion. Some minor touch up work can fix changes after delivery.

Can You Still Get Tattoo Removal Done During Pregnancy?

Laser tattoo removal is not considered safe during pregnancy and should be postponed until after giving birth. The laser impacts the skin’s pigment cells but potential effects on a developing fetus are unknown. There are also wound healing concerns.

Is It Ok to Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?

It’s generally best to postpone any non-essential procedures like tattoos during the newborn breastfeeding period if possible. Getting a tattoo always carries a low grade infection risk.

The immune system is weakened after delivery so infection precautions are still relevant. Be very diligent with aftercare if getting a tattoo while breastfeeding.

Closing Thoughts on Tattoos and Pregnancy:

Deciding whether to get a tattoo during pregnancy is ultimately a personal choice based on your particular circumstances. While it does carry some health risks, they can be minimized with proper safety precautions.

Many women have gotten tattoos while pregnant without complication. But others may prefer to wait until after giving birth. Discuss your options thoroughly with your doctor.

If choosing to get a tattoo, do your homework to find an artist and shop with stellar safety practices. Get your tattoo in the second trimester when risks are lowest. Follow aftercare diligently and be closely monitored if any complications arise.

With some smart planning and precautions, many women are able to safely memorialize their pregnancy by getting inked without issue. If you do wait until after delivery, your new tattoo can commemorate your baby as a wonderful first piece of body art together.