You’ve had a tattoo idea in your mind for a while now. And can’t wait to get under the needle. But if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, is now the right time? We talked to experts — Leigh Anne O’Connor, an international board certified lactation consultant, and Dr. Andrea Chisholm, an OB-GYN at the Harvard Teaching Hospital Cambridge Health Alliance — to find out what you need to know about getting a tattoo while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Can I get a tattoo while pregnant?
Short answer: No. Experts recommend against it, said Dr. Chisholm.
For starters, anyone who gets a tattoo faces multiple risks like:
Bacterial infections, which can cause permanent scarring or lesions
Fever post-tattoo as your body heals
Infection, which could cause pain or pus around the tattoo
Allergic reactions like rashes
These are especially high risks when pregnant because your immune system is weaker and can’t fend off infections as well.
There’s also the low but possible risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C anytime you get a tattoo. Depending on the cleanliness of the tattoo guns or other equipment used. If contracted, these infections could pass from mother to fetus.
Your skin might also be more sensitive during pregnancy — which can lead to more redness, swelling, and a longer healing time. And keep in mind that you might experience changes to your skin tone while pregnant, which could affect the appearance of your tattoo. For instance, colored ink tattoos may look different on your skin while pregnant due to an increase in pigmentation, which can make areas of your skin darker, according to Dr. Chisholm.
Got it. Can I get a tattoo while breastfeeding?
That will be another no. Because it’s still unclear how the chemicals from your tattoo (think: lead and arsenic) could break down and pass into your breastmilk.
You might feel eager to get that new tattoo. Especially if it’s a tribute to your new baby. But it’s best to wait until the baby is born and you’ve finished breastfeeding (if that’s something you’re planning on doing). That way, you can make sure you protect your baby and celebrate stepping into parenthood in a safe way.
Subscribe to Skimm Well
Sign up here to receive our wellness newsletter filled with actionable advice, expert-vetted content, product recs, and more — delivered directly to your inbox.