Tattoos during pregnancy

Can you get a tattoo while pregnant? It's not a good idea because you could get a skin infection or bloodborne disease, and you might expose your developing baby to unsafe dyes. Plus, your tattoo may look different after pregnancy. If you still decide to get a tattoo while pregnant, make sure the tattoo artist practices safe methods with sterile equipment. Tell the artist you're pregnant, and take good care of your tattoo. Existing tattoos shouldn't cause problems during pregnancy, and you can probably still get an epidural if you have a healed tattoo on your lower back.

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Is it okay to get a tattoo while pregnant?

It's not a good idea to get a tattoo while pregnant. Here are some things to consider:

  • Risk of skin infection. A tattoo is a skin wound, and between 0.5 and 6 percent of people who get a tattoo get an infection afterwards. Medication may be needed to treat an infection.
  • Risk of bloodborne disease. Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS are just some of the viral diseases that can be passed along through bodily fluids. This means you can catch these diseases if you get a tattoo from someone who uses a dirty needle. A rare but very dangerous bloodborne infection of the heart valves, infectious endocarditis, has also been associated with tattoos. And it's possible for you to pass these diseases along to your baby while you're pregnant.
  • We don't know how tattoo dyes and inks affect a developing baby. The FDA reports that some inks contain pigments used in printer toners and in car paint. Small amounts of chemicals that might be harmless to an adult can have a much bigger impact on a tiny fetus. The FDA has not approved any dyes for cosmetic skin injections.
  • Because of skin changes during pregnancy (including stretching of your belly and breasts), a tattoo that you get while you're pregnant might look distorted after you deliver your baby.
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Safety tips if you get a tattoo while pregnant

If you decide to get a tattoo while pregnant despite the risks, take steps to make the procedure as safe as possible.

Practices vary greatly when it comes to hygiene and infection control. And there's no federal oversight and no government approval of tattoo inks (because they're considered cosmetic products). So it's up to you to make sure:

  • The tattoo artist is registered and practices safe tattooing methods. Requirements vary from state to state (and not all states require a license), but licensure may require tattoo artist training; training in blood-borne pathogens, first aid, and CPR; and an apprenticeship. Check with your local health department to find out local regulations regarding tattooing.
  • The environment is clean.
  • Only new or sterilized equipment is used for your procedure. Inks should be sterile and unopened. Non-disposable equipment should be heat sterilized using an autoclave.
  • The artist washes his or her hands and wears a new pair of gloves before starting your procedure.
  • None of the inks being used have been recalled. You can find this information on the FDA website.
  • To tell the artist that you're pregnant.
  • To take good care of your tattoo. Keep it clean and moisturized. Avoid sun exposure and swimming while it's healing. Follow any other directions you receive, and contact your healthcare provider if you think your tattoo may be infected (if you have redness or swelling after a few days, or if you run a fever or have a rash around the tattoo).

Will an existing tattoo cause problems during pregnancy?

No, having a tattoo that's already healed shouldn't cause any problems for you or your baby during pregnancy.

You may find that your tattoo changes while you're pregnant, though. Chloasma (brown pigmentation that happens during pregnancy) can affect the color of a tattoo, for example. Weight gain and stretching of the skin can distort a tattoo. And stretch marks can also damage a tattoo – sometimes permanently.

Many women also find that their skin is more sensitive during pregnancy. So if the skin around your tattoo feels irritated, talk with your healthcare provider about appropriate treatment.

Can I get an epidural if I have a back tattoo?

Most healthcare providers will administer an epidural if you have a tattoo on your lower back, but they may decide not to if the tattoo is recent and still fresh or if there are any signs of infection.

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There's no clear evidence for or against giving epidurals near tattoos. Your anesthesiologist will probably try to insert the needle in an area away from the tattoo design, if possible. Otherwise, he or she may nick your skin before putting the needle in to reduce the risk of getting tattoo ink inside the needle or sending the pigment into deeper tissues. A small scar may result if the needle is inserted through the tattoo.

If you have a tattoo on your lower back and are considering having an epidural for pain relief during childbirth, find out what your hospital's policy is before you're admitted.

Can I have a tattoo removed during pregnancy?

No, you shouldn't have a tattoo removed during pregnancy because it may not be safe for your baby.

The most common way to remove tattoos is with laser treatments. The laser doesn't eliminate the ink in the tattoo. Instead, the laser light shatters the ink into particles that your body absorbs and flushes out. It generally takes a series of treatments – with a six-week time period between sessions – to remove a tattoo. The six weeks allows for the wound to heal and the ink to be absorbed. During that time, your baby may be exposed to the ink that your body is absorbing.

Don't try tattoo removal creams or ointments, either. These haven't been proven effective or safe. They often contain strong acids that may cause burning, a rash, or a permanent scar.

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Also, don't use salabrasion to try to remove a tattoo. This method, described in online videos, involves rubbing salt into raw layers of skin to rub away tattoo ink. Not only is this very painful, it can lead to a serious infection and/or scarring.

Tattoo inks aren't the only potentially harmful products that might be absorbed by your body during pregnancy. Learn which skin products to avoid in our article on safe skin care during pregnancy.

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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

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Dieckmann R et al. 2016. The risk of bacterial infection after tattooing. Deutsches Arzteblatt International 113(40): 665-671. a new window [Accessed March 2021]

FDA. 2020. FDA advices consumers, tattoo artists, and retailers to avoid using or selling certain tattoo inks contaminated with microorganisms. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. a new window [Accessed March 2021]

FDA. 2017. Think before you ink: Are tattoos safe? a new window [Accessed March 2021]

Kluger N 2010. Body art and pregnancy. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology 153(1): 3-7. a new window [Accessed March 2021]

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NCSL. 2019. National Conference of State Legislatures. Tattooing and body piercing/ State laws, statutes and regulations. a new window [Accessed March 2021]

Karen Miles
Karen Miles is a writer and an expert on pregnancy and parenting who has contributed to BabyCenter for more than 20 years. She's passionate about bringing up-to-date, useful information to parents so they can make good decisions for their families. Her favorite gig of all is being "Mama Karen" to four grown children and "Nana" to nine grandkids.