It's always a good idea to take safety precautions when getting a tattoo. A studio's and artists' cleaning practices can be the difference between getting a tattoo safely and getting an infection. If you're pregnant, it's even more critical to avoid an infection along with a few other considerations, too. If you're thinking about getting inked during your pregnancy, do your homework first.
To avoid an infection like hepatitis B, C, or HIV, make sure the tattoo studio and tattoo artist you work with maintain strict cleanliness and sterilization practices. For example:
Make sure the studio is clean - book a consultation and see the place for yourself and read online reviews
Make sure the location and each artist is licensed by the state, which ensures they are have routine health department inspections. You should also check to see if there are any outstanding health code violations.
Tattoo artists should always washes their hands before beginning, use single-use gloves, clean the area on your body receiving a tattoo, and use sterilized needles. Sterilized needles should be new, single use, and in sealed bags that are opened in front of you. Bandages and dyes also should be new and unopened (single use). Equipment should be sterilized after each use with an autoclave. Not sure of the sterilization process used at the location you're considering? Ask about what is done and how often. Most tattoo parlors are meticulous about their cleaning and safety procedures, but it's always smart to check.
Heavy metals in the skin should be avoided when pregnant. Ask about the ingredients of the tattoo colors you plan to choose. If they include any heavy metals, like lead, antimony, beryllium, chromium, cobalt nickel, cadmium, or arsenic, it's best to wait until after pregnancy. Exposure to heavy metals can affect your baby's brain development, and poses a risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
Though not dangerous, it's wise to avoid tattooing certain areas of the body during pregnancy. A new tattoo on the stomach, hip, or breasts during pregnancy, for example, is most prone to distortion as the skin in these areas stretches significantly. Melasma is a darkening blotchy skin condition that can occur during pregnancy and would affect how your tattoo appears.
Your skin can be much more sensitive to touch (and pain) during pregnancy, which could mean that getting a tattoo will be more painful than usual. Keep this in mind when making your decision.
Keeping the tattoo clean after the procedure is also important in order to avoid infection. Your tattoo artist should provide you with detailed aftercare instructions and be available to contact in case of a problem.
For many, the risks and inconveniences associated with getting a tattoo while pregnant are enough to put it off the new ink until after baby is born. If you do plan to go through with a tattoo, be sure to check everything against the safety list!