While you may be so inclined to consider enshrining that special moment in your life with a tattoo – like, for example, inking little Sally’s or Sam’s name on your shoulder, or elsewhere — getting a tattoo when you’re pregnant may not be such a good idea. In fact, it may be a very bad idea. Given the risk, however small it may be, of contracting an infection from a tattoo, and possibly a very serious infection such as Hepatitis B and HIV, it would make a great deal more sense for any responsible mom-to-be to wait until after the baby is born before getting that inky memento of the blessed event etched for all — or a select few — to see on her body. In fact, most dermatologists agree, it would make a great deal more sense for mom to wait until after she’s through breast feeding her newborn to get that little love missive sculpted on her hip.

Despite the huge growth in the popularity of tattoos over the past few years, the fact remains there is scant evidence about the safety of injecting ink into a person’s skin. To me the whole exercise sounds a little creepy. But that’s just me. The tattooing machine itself, which has remained relatively unchanged since it’s invention in the 1800s, moves a solid needle up and down the body part to puncture the dermis between 50 and 3,000 times per minute. I mean, really? The needle penetrates the skin by about a millimeter and deposits a drop of insoluble ink into the skin with each puncture.

According to an entire school of dermatology, it is possible that the chemicals in the dye may affect the development of the fetus, particularly during the first 12 weeks.

Some women may have also heard through online tattoo chat rooms that if they proudly display the so-called “tramp stamp” on their back, they might be unable to get an epidural during delivery to eliminate the pain of natural child birth. While very few studies have been done to confirm risks that could exist for women who have these “racy” back tattoos, so far none of the studies have proven conclusively that there are adverse health consequences to the fetus if mom with a tattooed starburst on her back is any less able to deliver her baby with an epidural.

From what research I could gather, most anesthesiologists have no problem giving an epidural to a woman with a back tattoo. But it is recommended that pregnant women contact the hospital ahead of time to confirm the hospital’s policy. Apparently it varies from institution to institution.
For thousands of years, women in Egypt, India, and much of the Middle East believed that tattoos brought “good luck” to their progeny. It was believed that by applying beautiful designs of henna on pregnant bellies, in the third trimester no less, brought safety in childbirth and a happy baby.

But, if the modern-day mom is interested in engaging is these kinds of mystic belief systems there are different types of hennas that are allegedly safer than others. Natural henna, it is said, stains the skin orange, red, brown, cinnamon, brick, chocolate, or coffee and can last up to four weeks. I’m not sure why this matters, but natural henna does not come in a black color. So according to “hennalogists” (if that’s a word) If you want to be absolutely sure the artist is using pure, natural henna, and not black henna, be sure to follow these important safety tips:

  • Make sure your tattoo artist is a registered practitioner (if your state registers tattoo artists)
  • Make sure your tattoo artist always wears gloves during the procedure
  • Make sure he or she uses an autoclave sterilizing unit to sterilize equipment.
  • Make sure to examine the floors and tables to determine if all surfaces are clean.
  • Be sure your tattoo artist is using a new needle that is made for single use only.
  • Make sure the dressings come in sterilized packages and that the packages are unopened
  • Make sure dyes or ink used for the tattoo are also kept in a sterilized, unopened packing.
  • Make sure your tattoo artist is available the first 24 hours if you have any problems
  • Find out the availability of the tattoo artist if you have any problems in the days and months ahead

If you have a tattoo and question the practices of the facility where you had it done, make sure you are tested for Hepatitis, HIV, and Syphilis.

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