Can Getting a Tattoo While Pregnant Cause a Miscarriage?

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Although most doctors and medical professionals advise against it, getting tattoos while pregnant has become popular with some expectant mothers. They’re just so happy and want to commemorate the experience, and a pregnancy tattoo seems like the perfect choice.

But can getting a tattoo while pregnant be dangerous enough to cause a miscarriage? 

There are no conclusive findings supporting a link between getting tattoos and miscarriages. However, some tattoo inks contain heavy metals, and introducing heavy metals into your body can potentially put you at a greater risk for miscarriage. Additionally, there’s always the risk of infection with tattoos.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the likelihood of tattoos causing miscarriages and a few other things. Keep reading to find out more. 

Can Tattoos Cause Miscarriage? 

Although the science surrounding tattoos and miscarriage is inconclusive, there are some complications that can arise from getting a tattoo. These complications can increase your chance of a miscarriage. Because there are so many unknowns, doctors recommend against getting tattoos when pregnant.

The most common risk with any tattoo is infection. While a tattoo may be beautiful and intentional, it’s still an injury. When you get a tattoo, the artist repeatedly pierces you with a needle – that’s why you bleed. 

When you injure yourself, either accidentally or intentionally, via body modifications, you run the risk of getting a skin infection. If not treated, that skin infection can spread, worsen, and lead to much more dangerous issues, including a potential miscarriage. 

Another possible issue that may arise while getting inked is an allergic reaction. Even if you have a dozen tattoos and go to the same artist in the same shop you’ve always used, you may still experience an allergic reaction to something during the tattooing process. 

Tattoo. Pretty girl getting a tattoo. Toned image

According to the Women’s Health Research Institute, pregnant women may become allergic to things that never bothered them before they became pregnant.

These reactions are usually mild and commonly occur with pet dander, dust, pollen, and fungus, but they can be caused by other stimulants as well (source: Women’s Health Research Institute). 

You shouldn’t take allergic reactions lightly. They can be severe, and in particularly extreme cases, they could cause you to miscarry. For that reason, it’s better to avoid your favorite body art shop while expecting a little one. 

Perhaps surprisingly, another factor to consider when getting a tattoo is stress. One of the most common pieces of advice doctors, nurses, and even non-professionals give to pregnant women is, “Avoid stress and stressful situations.” 

Studies show that mothers who experience more stress while pregnant are at higher risk for the following:

  • Preterm births 
  • Low birth weights 
  • Miscarriage 
  • Infant mortality and morbidity (source: HHS Public Access)

Pain is stressful. Tattoos hurt. Therefore, while it is rare, it’s possible that the pain you experience while getting your tattoo could elevate your stress level to the point where it could negatively impact your pregnancy. 

Close-up view of multiple bottles with colorful tattoo inks

Does Tattoo Ink Affect Pregnancy or My Baby? 

Finally, the tattoo ink itself could potentially harm your baby or lead to miscarriage. 

There is a chance that chemicals in tattoo ink can affect your pregnancy. Currently, doctors are debating this issue, and there is no solid evidence or studies to back it up. However, the research is still ongoing, and that’s enough to make most women think twice before getting inked (source: Elsevier).

In 2012, for example, the FDA investigated a strange tattoo-related phenomenon. Several people with gray in their tattoos were experiencing instances of nontuberculous mycobacterial infection.

It turned out that the problem wasn’t an issue with the tattoo artist or the cleanliness of the shop – it was the gray ink itself (source: The New England Journal of Medicine). 

The presence of heavy metals in tattoo ink is also worrisome. Many inks contain:

  • Titanium 
  • Aluminum 
  • Mercury 
  • Lead 

In fact, a 3- by 5-inch (7.62- by 12.7-cm) tattoo includes 1-23 micrograms of lead. People shouldn’t have exposure to more than 0.5 micrograms per day, so this is a significant amount (source: Environmental Health Perspectives). 

Other potentially dangerous components of tattoo ink include: 

Introducing these elements into your body could cause you to miscarry. Additionally, they could have other harmful consequences for your baby. 

Having ink on your lumbar region could also be problematic if you need to have an epidural. However, the science behind this claim is still inconclusive, with research ongoing (source: Elsevier). 

The good news is that all of this, aside from the potential epidural-related problem, only applies to tattoos you get while pregnant or immediately before becoming pregnant. If you have tattoos that are more than a couple of months old, you should be entirely in the clear. 

For more on this, see our article on whether you should worry if you got a tattoo while pregnant.

Pretty girl getting a shoulder tattoo. Toned image

Additionally, there are some steps you can take to minimize your risk of problems even if you get a tattoo while pregnant (which, again, isn’t advisable). These include: 

  • Get a small tattoo. Smaller tattoos are less painful, less stressful, and use less ink. They’re also easier to take care of, which makes the chance of infection smaller.
  • Pick a location away from your spine, stomach, and other areas that will grow and change while you’re pregnant. Not only will this allow you to have an epidural without worry and keep the ink away from your baby, but it’ll also help the art stay nice, bright, and pretty. Getting tattoos on areas of the body that expand during pregnancy can result in distortions to the tattoo as your body changes. 
  • Make sure you’re working with a reputable tattoo artist in a clean, sanitary shop. This minimizes the risk of infection and exposure to viruses like HIV and hepatitis. Don’t be afraid to question the artist on the shop’s standards, practices, and procedures. If you’re not happy with the answers you get, find another artist. 
  • Follow the aftercare instructions strictly. Taking proper care of your tattoo after the artist finishes it is imperative. The healing stage is critical, and you put yourself at greater risk for infection and problems if you neglect it. 
  • See your doctor immediately if you notice signs of infection. Don’t wait! Even minor infections can turn into sepsis if they aren’t adequately treated. If you think you may have an infection, let your doctor examine you right away. 

Final Thoughts

I hope this has helped you decide whether or not to get a tattoo during your pregnancy. While tattoos are always recommended against, if you have accidentally gotten a tattoo before you found out you were pregnant, don’t worry – there’s a very low risk that it may have caused issues with your pregnancy and baby.