Can You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
Getting new ink to celebrate the arrival of your baby can be a fun way to mark this momentous occasion. Here's what you should know first, including if getting tattooed is safe while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Body art can be a beautiful way to celebrate your new little one's debut into the world. Are you an expectant or nursing mama who wants to celebrate your baby with a tattoo? Wonderful!
Fresh ink can be an exciting, fun, creative, and unique way to mark such a momentous occasion—and we are here for it! But before you start looking for inspiration on Pinterest, sketching out ideas, checking out local artists on Instagram, and calling around to tattoo shops, you might be wondering a few important things first—like if you can get a tattoo while pregnant, if it's safe to get a tattoo while breastfeeding, and if getting a tattoo affects your breast milk at all.
We’ll answer those questions, review the risks, and uncover the facts about getting inked while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Can You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?
We know that keeping yourself and your baby safe while pregnant is your number one priority. And while there’s very little research to indicate that skin dyes can affect your baby after your first trimester, the risks are largely unknown.
The more significant known concern is about contracting an infection, such as hepatitis B or HIV, during the tattooing process. If you decide to get a tattoo while pregnant, it’s critical that you make sure the artist you choose follows safe tattooing practices. This includes wearing gloves during the procedure, using sterilized and single-use equipment, and having availability for the first 24 hours after the process in case you experience any problems or complications.
Working with an artist affiliated with a tattoo shop often means he or she must follow the cleanliness policies and professional guidelines of the business. Additionally, the shop should be licensed by the city, county, and/or state where it’s located. Getting a tattoo through a licensed shop may provide some peace of mind that their standards and practices are up to par.
Henna tattoos are a safe and temporary alternative, so long as the inks used are natural and some shade of brown, orange, or red. You should never get tattooed with black henna because it contains paraphenylenediamine (PPD), which is unsafe for anyone.
Is It Safe to Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?
The Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health advises against pregnant or breastfeeding moms getting tattooed. And while there is no evidence to suggest a newly tattooed mom’s breast milk poses a risk to her baby, the possibility of mom contracting an infection is a major area of concern. Additionally, tattoo ink is unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for injection under the skin. This means it can contain toxic chemicals such as heavy metals and materials found in paint and printer toner.
If you’re a breastfeeding mom and are thinking about getting a tattoo, you should strongly consider the risks first. Getting a tattoo with unsterilized equipment can result in allergic reactions to the ink, as well as skin infections and blood infections such as HIV, hepatitis C, tetanus, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Medications used to treat these conditions are incompatible with nursing.
How Long After Getting a Tattoo Should You Wait to Nurse?
Most tattoo artists will not knowingly tattoo a pregnant or nursing mother out of an abundance of caution. If you’re a nursing mom, the La Leche League recommends you wait until your baby is 9 to 12 months old and not wholly dependent on breast milk before you get a new tattoo.
Does Ink Affect Breast Milk?
Generally, it is thought that ink molecules are too large to pass into breast milk after receiving a tattoo. However, tattoo ink can take months and even years to break down in the body, so there’s just no way of knowing right now if you can safely nurse after getting a tattoo.
Tattoo Removal While Breastfeeding
Tattoos are removed using lasers that break up the ink particles, distributing them through your body’s immune system and filtering them through your liver. The process can cause blistering and scarring, and there is a risk of infection. While there are no studies to indicate these particles can enter your breast milk, it is advisable for you as a breastfeeding mom to wait to undergo tattoo removal until your little one is completely weaned.
Your body goes through some amazing changes while you’re pregnant, as well as while you’re breastfeeding. You’re healing, you’re likely sleep-deprived, and you’re getting to know that new little human who is now such a big part of your life—and your heart. Getting a tattoo or having one removed may add unnecessary complications to an already busy time—and one you’ll want to enjoy as long as you can. For pregnant or breastfeeding moms, it’s likely wisest to wait to celebrate with a new tattoo.