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Tattoos, piercings and pregnancy

02 December 2017
Volume 25 · Issue 12


As research suggests that up to one-third of people under the age of 40 have a tattoo, George Winter explores what the growing popularity of body art means for women during pregnancy

According to Laux et al (2016: 395), ‘many individuals receive their first tattoo at age 16–20 years […] with up to 36% of people younger than 40 years having at least one tattoo.’ Midwives often care for those who have or are considering body piercings, yet Hoover et al (2017: 521) found that ‘body modifications are rarely addressed at visits’, although ‘management of the piercing becomes critical […] during pregnancy and birth, lactation, or surgery.’

Unlike their counterparts a generation ago, midwives now encounter more pregnant women with tattoos and body piercings, some of which may complicate antenatal and postnatal care.

Douglas and Swinnerton (2002:1057) considered the risks of epidural anaesthesia for pregnant women with lumbar tattoos, and theorised that ‘a pigment-containing tissue core from a tattoo could be deposited into the epidural, subdural or subarachnoid spaces, leading to later neurological complications,’ but found no complications from inserting a needle through a tattoo. However, Kuczkowski (2008: 2) describes how, several hours after a healthy 34-year-old woman at term—whose lumbar area was covered with tattoos—was given an epidural, she ‘reported tenderness and burning in the lumbar area where the epidural catheter had been sited,’ although the symptoms resolved within a day.

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