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Body Piercing Basics
Is it safe to get pierced during pregnancy?
Whether you're thinking about getting your nipples, genitals, or burgeoning belly pierced, think again. "Puncturing the skin during pregnancy is never a good idea because there's an increased risk of infection, which can then spread to the bloodstream," according to Diana Madfes, a dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. Plus, when you're pregnant your immunity is weakened so you're more susceptible to infection.
So what if you're already pierced and pregnant? Never fear, your existing body work won't harm your unborn baby. Read on for tips on caring for your piercings.
Should I remove my belly ring?
Your favorite pair of jeans isn't the only thing that will feel more snug as your waistline expands. "If your belly ring begins to feel tight, take it out or replace it with a more comfortable piece of jewelry," says Joey Wyman, a former body piercer and mother of a 5-month-old. Swap your ring for a piece of clean fishing line or Teflon body jewelry (known as PTFE, or polytetrafluorethylene), which flexes with your growing belly. Wyman points out that you probably won't need to take this precaution if your piercing has been in for at least three to four years because it's not likely that the hole will close.
If you're comfortable keeping your piercing in throughout your pregnancy and your healthcare provider approves, then go for it. The chances of it interfering with the actual birth are slim. "We can always work around a belly ring," says Leslie Kardos, an ob-gyn at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and mother of two, who also happens to have her belly pierced. "In fact, I left mine in for the birth of my second child without a problem," she says.
The incision used during most c-sections runs along the bikini line and doesn't interfere with the belly button. And if for some reason a belly ring ends up posing a problem during the birth, it can easily be removed.
How do I clean my belly ring?
Take care of your belly ring the same way you did before pregnancy, by carefully washing the area with ordinary soap and warm water. It's important to keep any piercing clean, but you should be particularly stringent with the belly variety, which seems to get infected more often than other piercings. After all, the belly button has a tendency to collect lint and bacteria.
Should I remove my nipple piercing?
When it comes to nipple piercings, ob-gyn Kardos takes a more conservative approach than with the belly variety. "It's best to remove a nipple ring when you're pregnant, especially if you plan on breastfeeding," she says. In addition to being an obvious choking hazard for your baby, Kardos points out, a nipple ring interferes with a baby's ability to latch on properly, and milk could leak through the piercing hole.
Your best bet is to take out your nipple piercing and let the hole heal over. Once your child has stopped breastfeeding, you can have your nipples pierced again.
Should I remove my genital piercing?
Let comfort be your guide: "If your genital piercing isn't bothering you during your pregnancy, go ahead and leave it in," says ob-gyn Kardos. However, she advises taking it out as your due date approaches because so much stretching, pulling, and tugging goes on during childbirth that the jewelry could easily be ripped out, leading to additional vaginal trauma.
How do I clean my genital piercing?
Take care of your genital piercing the same way you did before pregnancy, by carefully washing the area with ordinary soap and warm water.
Is it safe to get a tattoo during pregnancy?
No, because you could be putting yourself at risk of contracting blood-borne infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV from a contaminated needle. Most licensed tattoo and piercing artists use sterile instruments, so the odds are slim – but you probably won't want to take a chance when it comes to your baby-to-be. Aleph Kali, manager at Tattoo City in San Francisco, adds, "Why put extra stress on your transforming body when you can just wait until after the baby is born and tattoo the little one's name across your back?"
If you do decide to pay permanent homage to your baby, it's a good idea to wait until after you've finished breastfeeding. If for some reason you contract an infection, you could pass it to your baby through your breast milk.
How do I care for my tattoo?
Luckily an existing tattoo won't affect your baby-to-be, but your growing baby might affect your tattoo. Stretch marks can leave a tattoo discolored and distorted.
Diane Madfes, a dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, recommends moisturizing your skin regularly. "I tell my patients to moisturize twice a day," says Madfes. "Any over-the-counter lotion will do, but I prefer one with shea butter because it forms a protective barrier." Lubing up your pregnant body with baby oil in the shower is great too. "Rub the oil in a circular motion, and try to slowly stretch the skin," adds Madfes. Although there's no scientific proof that stretch mark creams prevent these pregnancy scars, they will keep your skin moisturized.
So what happens if you've tried every lotion and potion out there to keep stretch marks under control and your tattoo ends up looking the worse for wear? Well, luckily your body art can be reworked after childbirth. Joey Wyman, a former San Francisco tattoo artist, advises waiting until your baby-bearing years are behind you and you're back to your normal body tone before having your tattoo touched up. The textural differences caused by stretch marks will still be there, but the tattoo's coloring can be revitalized.
Henna: The no-regrets tattoo
Is it safe to use henna during pregnancy?
For over 5,000 years, women around the world have decorated and celebrated their pregnant bodies with beautiful henna designs. Although there are no definitive studies on henna during pregnancy, these plant-based temporary tattoos appear to be safe as long as you follow a few caveats. As with any body-enhancing beauty product, it's a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider before using henna.
"When you're pregnant your skin is much more sensitive, so there's a chance you'll have an allergic reaction to the natural dye," says Diane Madfes, a New York dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mt. Ask the artist to test a small patch of skin and wait 24 hours to reduce the risk of a skin irritation.
It's also important to note that there are different types of henna. You want to make sure you go to an artist who uses the pure, natural kind, which stains the skin a reddish brown color that lasts one to four weeks. Steer clear of the black variety, which contains para-phenylendiamine, a chemical substance that can cause blisters, burns, and other skin reactions that may last for months.
"If you're going to have henna work done while pregnant, make sure the artist has good references and make sure the quality of the product is pure," says Renda Dabit, henna artist and owner of the Henna Garden – an event-planning company in San Francisco specializing in henna-themed functions. It's best to steer clear of street fair artists and do-it-yourself henna kits because they sometimes use black henna.