Editor's Note: We at POPSUGAR recognise that people of many genders and identities have vaginas and uteruses and experience pregnancy, not just those who are women. For this particular story, we interviewed experts who generally referred to people with vaginas and uteruses who experience pregnancy as women.
There are many occasions that might prompt you to want to get a tattoo, such an anniversary, a big accomplishment, or even a pregnancy. But before you head to the tattoo parlor with your baby bump in tow, be sure to educate yourself about the potential risks doctors caution expectant parents to consider. Because when you get inked with a burgeoning belly, you are really tattooing for two.
Is it safe to get a tattoo while pregnant?
"There is very little evidence-based medical knowledge about tattooing during pregnancy," said Avi Tsur, MD, an ob-gyn and high-risk pregnancy expert at Sheba Medical Centre. That being said, it is still not advisable to get inked if you are expecting. "The main concern with tattooing during pregnancy is the risk for contracting an infection such as Hepatitis B or C and HIV," Natasha Spencer, MD, an ob-gyn for Orlando Health Physician Associates, told POPSUGAR.
It's also worth noting that since pregnant people are immunocompromised, and getting a tattoo carries with it the risk of infection, the nine months between getting a positive test and delivering your baby are not ideal for ink. "If an infection were to develop afterwards, treating with antibiotics can be tricky," Dr. Spencer explained. Dr. Tsur seconded that notion, telling POPSUGAR that there is a "limited arsenal of antibiotics" that are safe for pregnant people.
Is it safe to get a tattoo while TTC or breastfeeding?
"Because of the many potential risks for mother and fetus, my advice is to avoid tattooing for women trying to conceive, throughout pregnancy, and until completion of breastfeeding," noted Dr. Tsur. Transmission of disease and infection are the primary concerns. So, when can you get that tattoo you've been wanting for nine months? Dr. Spencer said waiting up to a year postpartum is best, "especially if you are exclusively breastfeeding."
There's another reason that waiting a minute to get inked post-birth is a good idea — and it has to do with aesthetics more than health. As Dr. Spencer explained, "There are a lot of changes that occur during pregnancy, stretching being a major one. A tattoo may look nice initially but can become distorted or lopsided after you regain your prepregnancy shape, especially if it is in a location that is prone to expand as the pregnancy grows."
What if you got a tattoo before you knew you were pregnant?
"Although pregnant women should avoid getting a tattoo during pregnancy, they can be reassured of the absence of proven pregnancy risks if the procedure is performed before they are aware of their pregnancy," Dr. Spencer said, adding, "The ink will not enter the bloodstream, as the needle only penetrates about 1/8 of an inch into the skin." She further explained, "Tattoo ink contains inorganic and synthetic organic pigments and is considered a cosmetic by the USDA. Cosmetics cannot contain poisonous, deleterious substances or unapproved colour additives, and should be manufactured in sanitary conditions."
Ultimately, as Dr. Tsur said, "A new baby is definitely a good reason to celebrate." But if you choose to commemorate the occasion with a tattoo, deliver, finish breastfeeding, and then head to the tattoo parlor.