Physical pregnancy changes and piercing risks

After conception and during a normal pregnancy a number of physical changes happen to the woman's body that usually dissipate after giving birth. These physical changes include:

  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged uterus and abdomen
  • Vaginal discharge may show infection
  • Enlarged breasts and milky discharge from nipples
  • Increased blood flow and heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Circulatory adjustments
  • Stuffy nose or change in voice
  • Morning sickness, heartburn and belching
  • Constipation and haemorrhoids
  • Food cravings and excess saliva
  • Blotchy skin and skin sensitivity
  • Stretch marks
  • Spider-like blood vessels on lower legs
  • Placenta producing hormones increase thyroid activity
  • Increased perspiration
  • Mood swings
  • Fluid retention
  • Changes in insulin levels
  • Pelvic flexibility and posture changes
  • Back or joint ache

These physical changes can have an impact on existing piercings and also decisions about where, what and how to pierce while pregnant. The extensiveness of the list also broadens implications of piercing when expecting. Some considerations of piercings and pregnancy changes include:

  • Piercings and the pregnant skin
  • Piercings, bacterial infections and pregnancy
  • Piercings and healing time scales impacting pregnancy
  • Piercings, blood glucose levels and hypertension
  • Pregnancy, piercings and communication

Piercings and the pregnant skin

As parts of a woman's body alter during expectancy and the skin becomes far more sensitive, the existing piercing can be affected by becoming tender, sore, irritated, weepy, or infected. Depending on where the piercing is located, and if contaminated, the infection may spread through the woman's blood stream and the attached umbilical cord that feeds the growing foetus. Infections such as this can pose a threat to the health of the expectant mother and unborn baby.

Particular care needs to be given to piercings of the face, nipples, belly, and genitalia. As a woman's body swells through gestation, the skin also stretches and the pierced holes may become enlarged providing a larger wound area if infected. A woman's nipples are far more sensitive and often have a milky discharge. The discharge and tenderness can aggravate a pierced nipple and later the breast feeding process. If a woman has breast implants, piercings are not recommended because it raises the risk of nipple infections that may spread throughout the body.

Piercings, bacterial infections and pregnancy

Bacterial infections are common with piercings, particularly in the mouth and genital region, and can cause abscesses around the piercing site that can lead to blood poisoning (speticaemia) or toxic shock syndrome. These bacterial infections can seriously affect the birth process, such as premature breakage of water, pre-term labour, amniotic fluid infection, and infection of the placenta. As a result, the baby can be placed under extreme stress during labour as its developing body also fights the infection.

A pregnant woman, due to heightened skin sensitivity, is also more at risk of experiencing an allergic reaction to the metal or material used for the piercing. The skin may become inflamed as it pulls away from the material. Some men opt to have an ampallang or palang piercing through the penis. If this piercing is infected, and sexual intercourse continues with a pregnant woman, the infection can spread through contact to her body and that of the developing foetus.

A woman is also more likely to have a vaginal discharge that at some point may indicate infection during pregnancy. Having a genital piercing increases the risk of bacterial infection, and if left untreated, can harm the baby during the pregnancy process. Bacterial infections can lead to stillbirths and also to miscarriages.

Piercings and healing time scales impacting pregnancy

Besides the additional challenges of skin sensitivity that can lengthen healing periods of piercings during pregnancy, the location of the piercing also carries certain healing time scales that need to be considered. While nose piercings may take from two to three months to heal, navel piercings take up to a year to heal. So even if a woman falls pregnant six months after having a navel piercing, she still places herself and her developing baby at higher risk of infection due to the length of healing time.

Piercings, blood glucose levels and hypertension

During piercings, blood glucose levels can rise, influencing insulin regulation. Pregnant women are already at risk of contracting gestational diabetes, and therefore by piercing increase this risk. Blood glucose levels should be closely monitored if a woman is recently pierced and pregnant or if there is infection to an existing piercing while pregnant. Piercings or infected piercings heal very slowly if insulin dependent. A pregnant woman with diabetes should consult a medical professional before proceeding with a piercing. The aftercare of the piercing is also vital in such cases.

A woman's blood flow and heart rate is expected to increase during phases of her pregnancy, also affecting blood pressure. The reason is because her blood flow and heart rate have to keep up with the developing foetus. As the heart exerts itself, irregularities or murmurs can occur. A risk of piercings is inflammation of the heart valves. Having a piercing while pregnant can therefore raise the risk of heart irregularity and heart murmur.

Any allergic reaction to the piercing metals or infection to the piercing site can raise blood pressure that places the pregnancy under threat of stillbirth or pre-eclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension) causing miscarriage. In addition, the mother is in danger of having blood clots, stroke and liver or kidney failure.

Pregnancy, piercings and communication

Besides the natural mood swings happening as a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy, and that can impact communication with others, a pregnant woman with an oral piercing may experience oral health problems as a result of the piercing that affects not only wellbeing, but malocclusion and pronunciation difficulties. When having an oral piercing, it is best to seek regular dental care and advice about the effects of the piercing. Communication challenges as a result of the piercing combined with hormonal mood changes can increase stress levels.

Sleeping during Pregnancy:

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