Once thought of as something only for bikers, rebellious teenagers or servicemen, tattoos have become quite fashionable and more accepted in all ages and sexes. Men, women, moms, dads, teens and grandmas can all be found sporting butterflies, barbed wire bracelets, inspirational sayings, their children’s names and other artsy designs from their ankles to their necks — and anywhere in between!

But what about pregnant women? If you’ve always wanted a tattoo, or want to add one to commemorate this special time in your life, is now the best time to do it?

A Risky Behavior? “There are not any more risks when getting a tattoo when pregnant than getting a tattoo when not,” says Myrna L. Armstrong, professor and regional dean at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing. “Currently, there is not any information or research that shows the tattoo pigment interferes with a pregnancy, yet there is very little research to support either side.”

While there is not much research on the subject, Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a dermatologist, general cosmetic surgeon, past president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery and president of LovelySkin.com, does not feel pregnant women should consider getting a tattoo. “Even in the best of situations, obtaining a tattoo is a mixed bag of risks, but when you add a pregnancy, the cons far outweigh any potential benefits,” he says. “Tattoos are essentially nanoparticles that are unregulated and may contain foreign substances of dubious purity.”

Even in the best of situations, obtaining a tattoo is a mixed bag of risks.

Add onto that the potential for getting infected with hepatitis and HIV while getting a tattoo, and Dr. Schlessinger says you have a very serious problem on your hands, all while you are trying to keep your baby safe. “Doctors such as myself are absolutely scrupulous to avoid any potential procedure and/or medication while pregnant in order to make sure the baby has every chance to be safe,” he says. “Why mess with luck and have a procedure that is clearly not for the baby, but all about the mother and pass on any risk (however small or large) to the unborn baby? Not a good choice, in my opinion.”

Mario Barth, world-renowned celebrity tattoo artist and CEO and founder of Starlight Tattoo, would never consider tattooing an expecting mom. “When you’re pregnant your body is undergoing so many changes,” says Barth, who has Lenny Kravitz and Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue on his clientele list. “When you get tattooed you are putting a foreign object into your body and therefore your bloodstream, which goes directly to your baby and could cause potential harm. Excess ink will get distributed to your organs and blood, and as with any foreign object your body will try to fight it off. Your baby is so small — why would you cause it potential distress?”

John Reardon, author The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting a Tattoo (Alpha, 2008), says while he has not found any evidence that getting a tattoo while expecting can affect the pregnancy, he also would not tattoo a mom-to-be. “The main reason women should not get tattooed while pregnant is that there is a possibility of either infection or an allergic reaction,” he says. “It is rare, but does happen. Also, if the woman went to a tattoo shop that wasn’t clean, there is a risk of transmitting HIV or hepatitis. It is really hard to transmit these diseases with modern preparation techniques.”

Reardon also points out that certain people may be allergic to some colors, especially red. “This can cause a rash, which can spread through the body,” he says. “Many people are allergic to petroleum-based products such as Vaseline, Bacitracin or A&D ointment. This reaction is characterized by lots of little pimples, which usually itch, around the tattooed area. It can also spread to other parts of the body.”

Another consideration is possible problems during labor with anesthesia. “A pregnant woman with a tattoo on the lower back should be aware that some physicians might not administer anesthesia via an epidural through the lower back if there is a tattoo,” Armstrong says. One theory behind this is that there’s a possibility particles of ink could travel through the epidural needle into the spine during the procedure; another suggests there is an increased risk of infection. There is, however, no conclusive evidence that tattoos and epidurals are a dangerous combination.

Selecting a TattooistThe pros and cons have been weighed, research done and you have decided that a tattoo is something you want to do during your pregnancy. The next step is to put safety first and foremost, and find the right tattoo shop and tattooist.

“A pregnant woman should take the usual safety precautions of getting a tattoo,” Armstrong says. She says to make sure of the following:

1. The studio is clean and uses the proper precautions and procedures in dealing with blood-borne contaminations.
2. The artist has knowledge about skin care, sterilization and anatomy.
3. That the needles have been sterilized properly or that disposable needles are new (with the old ones disposed of appropriately).
4. The artist wears gloves, uses a single unit of pigment with the excess pigment being disposed and uses pigment and dressings that are sterile.

Reardon suggests looking online for a reputable tattoo shop. “Myspace has thousands of tattooists with full portfolios and all the artist’s information,” he says. “You really need to see the work of the tattooist to be sure you won’t regret your tattoo. Ask someone you know who has a tattoo or knows someone who has lots of tattoos. The best way to be able to judge a tattooist’s ability is to see the work firsthand and fully healed. You will want to see if the lines are relatively straight and smooth (many customers jump or squirm while getting tattooed so it’s not always up to the artist); the shading or coloring will be strong and full, not spotty or faded; and the design will be drawn well. There shouldn’t be any scarring, where the tattoo will be raised up and lumpy. Also the tattoo shop should be clean.”

Armstrong recommends using word of mouth. “I would recommend that women talk to others about getting and having a tattoo, seek referrals for an artist, shop around for techniques and do their research,” she says.

Barth agrees. “Research on the Internet and check with the Better Business Bureau and local Health Department,” he says. “Also, ask a lot of questions and go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, then wait. A tattoo is for the rest of your life, so you can afford to wait.”

Tattoos 101 What is a tattoo, really? “A tattoo is pigment placed in the skin,” says Reardon. “If a tattoo is done correctly, the pigment will rest in the upper part of the dermis just below the epidermis. Some form of sharp object will be used to implant the pigment. Modern tattooing is done with sterilized needles and an electric tattoo machine. Many people still practice the traditional ways of tattooing from the South Pacific and Japan, which is done by hand.”

Article courtesy www.pregnancytoday.com