Is it safe to get tattooed while pregnant? Can you breastfeed with nipple piercings? Read on to learn more about tattoos, body piercing, and pregnancy.
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pregnant belly with piercing
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Millions of Americans have tattoos and body piercings. These forms of modification are a common means of self-expression. They are also spiritual in nature. For some, the act is a ritual in its own right. And tattoos and body piercings can celebratory, commemorating special life events.

Of course, for some, there is no more meaningful event than pregnancy. The 9-month-journey is one they want to remember—in a special, unique way. But are tattoos during pregnancy safe? Can you breastfeed with a nipple piercing?

From what your (existing) tattoos will look like to the truth about getting body art now, here's everything you need to know about tattoos, body piercing, and pregnancy.

Is It Safe to Get Pierced and/or Tattooed While Pregnant?

You should wait until after baby arrives to get any new body piercings and/or art. Anytime you get stuck with a needle, whether it's for a tattoo or a piercing, you run the risk of infection. "When you're pregnant, there's also a higher chance that you'll have a bad reaction to some or all of the ingredients in the ink," says Iffath A. Hoskins, M.D., clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. Plus, if you get a tattoo or a piercing while your skin is stretched, you may find it looks or feels different postpartum.

Will My Tattoo Look Different After Pregnancy?

Any time skin stretches, artwork can become blurry, faded, or misshapen, says Cameron Rokhsar, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York City. Tattoos on your stomach, breasts, or hips are most likely to change since those areas expand the most. You may also find that your tattoo maintains its size and shape, but stretch marks develop within it and cause it to fade. "How much of a lasting effect pregnancy has on your body art depends mostly on genetics," says Dr. Rokhsar. Lotions and creams won't prevent distortion, but if your skin happens to bounce back, your tattoo may look the same way it once did after your baby arrives. Otherwise, a tattoo artist should be able to touch up the art—or see a dermatologist who can use lasers to remove it.

Should I Take Out My Existing Piercings?

During pregnancy, earrings and nose rings can stay, and you don't necessarily have to ditch piercings in your nipples or belly button either. "Some people find that they become uncomfortable as their skin stretches," says Iffath A. Hoskins, M.D., clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center. If you're in pain, changing up the size or the style of your jewelry may help, as will removing it entirely, of course. Just keep in mind that labor is a different story. A nose or tongue ring can get in the way if you end up needing general anesthesia, and a genital piercing increases your risk of tearing, says Shannon M. Clark, M.D., associate professor of maternalfetal medicine at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. For a C-section, even plain old earrings must be removed.

Can You Get an Epidural With a Back Tattoo?

According to Middlesex Health, a Mayo Clinic Care Network member, "lower back tattoo[s] won't necessarily prevent you from having an epidural, a common type of anesthesia, during labor." However, there are a few exceptions. Tattoos that are raised and scaly may be problematic. Red, swollen, or oozy tattoos could be infected, and infected tattoos should not be disturbed. Fresh and/or healing tattoos should also not be touched.

That being said, it's important to note that there are other forms of pain relief. Analgesics can be administered intravenously. This is done via a shot or a direct injection into the IV line. Nitrous oxide is used by some hospitals—and in certain cases, though there are inherent risks. And local anesthesia can be administered.

How Do Genital Piercings Affect Labor and Delivery?

While some people deliver babies while wearing genital jewelry, Elayne Angel, a professional body piercer and author of The Piercing Bible: The Definitive Guide to Safe Piercing, advises expectant parents remove said jewelry prior to labor and delivery. "It is prudent to remove all metal jewelry from genital piercings prior to childbirth to avoid the possibility of tearing the piercing [and/]or causing trauma to the baby," Angel writes. "Depending on hospital policy, you may be able to leave genital jewelry in place if a Caesarean section is performed," but this will vary—from person-to-person and procedure-to-procedure.

Will Nipple Piercings Prevent Me From Breastfeeding?

"A piercing in the nipple or the areola has zero effect on your ability to produce breast milk, but a nipple ring is a potential choking hazard, so it's best to leave it out until you're no longer breastfeeding," Dr. Hoskins says. You may be surprised to find that milk is expressed from your nipple and also through the hole of the piercing!

Parents Magazine