Nursing, pregnancy and tattoos. It’s where my two worlds collide.
No, I’m not covered in tattoos or anything, but my husband owns a tattoo shop. I often have to relay messages to him or help him tie his thoughts into blog posts. At least once a week, we will get an email asking, “Is it OK to get tattooed while pregnant (or nursing)?”
Generally women are concerned about if the tattoo ink will hurt the baby, but there are a number of factors besides that that need to be considered.
My husband will not tattoo a woman who is pregnant or who admits that her baby is exclusively breastfed. The only exception would be if the woman says she will quit nursing her infant so that she can get a tattoo, because it defeats the point when you consider his reasons for suggesting women wait to get tattooed.
There are several reasons for my husband’s policy:
A tattoo is an open wound. A professional tattoo artist will be expected to maintain a clean shop and follow universal precautions. That’s not an issue. As soon as the woman takes her bandage off though, the wound is still there and bacteria is in her environment. Given that a woman’s resistance to infection is down, walking around with a healing open wound isn’t the best idea. Her risk of infection during the healing process is much greater. It’s an even worse idea if the woman plans to be making any trips to the hospital for NSTs or labs. Hospitals are often even more dense with stronger germs than normal public places are, and many effective antibiotics and even many essential oils are not completely safe during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, women’s resistance to allergens is down as well. Some people may have allergies to some of the pigments used. Even if a woman has been tattooed several times, an allergy to certain pigments can arise if she is tattooed during pregnancy just because women’s allergies are often worse during pregnancy.
Infection is still a concern during breastfeeding even though the woman’s body is more back to normal. Breastfed babies will take nutrients from the woman. If she is not eating as well as she should be, her vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc levels could be lessened such that she would still be more inclined to an infection. Another consideration is that once tattooed, it will take at least a few days for the wound to heal enough for the woman to not worry too much about aftercare instructions. During the initial days after a tattoo, she will need to make sure she can dedicate the time to keep the tattooed area clean and well lubricated. When I had an infant, I could barely make sure my teeth were brushed let alone take the extra effort to care for a new tattoo.
Again, the tattoo artist will almost certainly use universal precautions, but he can’t follow her around her house while she heals making sure she is equally as sanitary. An infection may not seem like that big of a deal, but she should consider this: What if she did get an infection because, say…she didn’t change her sheets everyday, because she’s exhausted. How would she treat it? Would she treat it naturally or would she ask for antibiotics?
If the woman thinks she would go for antibiotics, she must keep in mind that many bacterial infections are now resistant to many antibiotics. That may leave only a few antibiotics for her doctor to choose from to treat her.
The antibiotics that will be needed to treat an infection may require that she “pump and dump.” At that point, she’d have to give donor milk or formula for some time and hope that her supply maintains and her baby’s gut flora isn’t upset while she is treated.
Is it Worth the Risk?
While countless women get tattooed while pregnant and nursing and heal beautifully, really…
“A tattoo worth having on your body is worth waiting for.” That’s another thing my husband believes. Of course, he’s talking about his busy schedule, but I think it fits here too.