Pregnancy and maintaining existing tattoos

During pregnancy, a woman’s skin and body weight undergoes changes that may impact her existing tattoo. As a result, women may need to consult a medical professional or professional tattooist about how to care for the skin, weight and tattoo. The links below provide information on:

  • Skin during pregnancy and tattoo changes
  • Body weight during pregnancy and tattoo changes
  • Maintaining existing tattoos during pregnancy

Skin during pregnancy and tattoo maintenance

During pregnancy, a woman may experience changes to her skin such as pigmentation (called chloasma) with brown patches appearing especially on the face and neck because of production of melanin hormone that increases when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet light. Similarly, skin on the tummy may discolour (linea nigra) as the muscles stretch to expand with the foetus’s growth. These patches can impact the colour of a tattoo.

Other changes include surfacing of spider veins particularly on the lower legs as blood circulation volume rises to accommodate the breathing unborn baby. The skin expands with the growth of the foetus and stretch marks may also appear. The skin becomes much more sensitive and may itch, and become irritated with rashes and spots. Not only may the veins, marks, and spots change the appearance of an existing tattoo, but so may chemicals used for treatment.

The condition of the skin during pregnancy differs from woman to woman, and doctors often advise on treating skin that becomes highly sensitive. Professional tattooists can also advise on how to take care of the tattoo during pregnancy, however if skin is highly irritated, it is best to seek medical advice for treatment appropriate in pregnancy.

Body weight during pregnancy and tattoo maintenance

When a woman’s body expands with the developing foetus, there is quite a change to body and muscle weight that can impact the appearance of the tattoo ink. The impact on the tattoo may be temporary or permanent depending on the type of body changes and effect on the skin’s ability to adjust. Stretch marks, if over a tattoo and deep, tend to permanently damage the spread of ink and the appearance of the tattoo. Even though re-inking may be a consideration to restore the tattoo, the damage from stretch marks is usually irreversible.

For this reason, it is often recommended that women wishing to give birth wait until after the birth before having tattoos placed near the tummy and breasts. It is not recommended to starve oneself and indirectly the growing baby in the womb too in an effort to keep weight down. During pregnancy, it is perfectly natural to gain weight as the body of the mother feeds the growing baby inside. If the tattoo becomes distorted to the point of distaste, laser tattoo removal may be a consideration after birth and healing.

Maintaining existing tattoos during pregnancy

Whether a woman has a tattoo when pregnant or not, the tattoo still requires a level of care to maintain its freshness especially when new. New tattoos may take up to two weeks to heal with some scabbing. During pregnancy, the skin with the tattoos can become irritated with scaling and can be cared for similarly to a new tattoo to minimise damage by:

  • Heeding advice from a professional tattooist
  • Covering an exposed tattoo during the healing process
  • Washing with antibacterial soap after healing
  • Avoiding use of abrasive cleaning agents and materials
  • Touching or dabbing the tattoo area carefully when drying the skin
  • Using a recommended tattoo ointment or medically prescribed ointment
  • Keeping the tattoo as dry as possible from water
  • Refraining from scratching the irritated skin of the tattoo
  • Discussing changes and concerns with a medical doctor
  • Reducing exposure to sun ultraviolet that can discolour the tattoo

Tattoos and Pregnancy:

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