Tattoo removal isn’t a simple process: Depending on the details and location of your tattoo, you may need to set aside at least several months worth of sessions and a sizeable chunk of change to remove it completely. And it goes without saying that the removal procedure itself won’t exactly be a comfortable experience. In other words—it can take a lot out of you.
Another thing that can take a lot out of you? Pregnancy. Like, a lot a lot. So if you’re thinking about getting tattoo removal while pregnant, it’s imperative that you keep safety considerations top of mind. Even if you’re champing at the bit to remove a regrettable tattoo, the timing isn’t always right to do so — especially, experts agree, if you’re thinking about tattoo removal while pregnant.
1. There’s no scientific research
Straight up: Pregnant women are not guinea pigs for procedures, no matter how regularly they may be performed. “We don’t like to perform any procedures on pregnant patients,” Marie Jhin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of Premier Dermatology, tells Inside Out. And because pregnant women are never scientific guinea pigs, there are zero scientific studies that have looked at the effects of tattoo removal procedures on pregnant people, she explains. (To that extent, there are almost never any scientific studies done on pregnant women, particularly so ones that require the subject to alter their physical state in any way.)
And even in case the lack of studies could theoretically be skewed in favor of giving removal a go, Jhin says that tattoo removal is a risky enough procedure that should wait until well after delivery. Plus, the unknown risks don’t just affect the pregnant mama, but also potentially the fetus, too.
2. The risk for infection is greater
In general, pregnant people are advised to be very wary of infections — certain varieties, including listeriosis, are more easily contracted during pregnancy, while others will be more severe once they’ve been contracted. Board-certified dermatologist and director of Dermatology & Laser Surgery Center in Houston, Texas, Paul M. Friedman, MD, tells Inside Out that it can be particularly difficult to treat infections in pregnant patients, as certain antibiotics may negatively affect the fetus’ development. So, if one can avoid potential sources of infection during pregnancy, they should—hence his unwavering agreement with Jhin that tattoo removal while pregnant is a 100 percent no-go.
3. Different types of reactions are possible
In addition to infection, Dr. Friedman points out that tattoo removal can cause allergic reactions and pain to the point of undue physical stress. But, the dangers don’t just start once the treatment is complete—the very process of tattoo removal, in which lasers break down the tattoo ink into smaller and smaller pieces, may be hazardous to pregnant people, too. Those tiny pieces, also known as nano-particles, are considered toxic and could conceivably, Dr. Friedman explains, come into contact with the fetus as they’re broken down and absorbed into the body.
The bottom line
All of these are possible outcomes to having a tattoo removed during pregnancy. As Dr. Jhin notes, there’s no evidence to suggest what, exactly the harm would be, in the same way that there’s very little research around the risks of getting a tattoo while pregnant. Nevertheless, many would consider it an unnecessary gamble—with the parent’s health and that of their unborn child—for a pregnant person to undergo tattoo removal. As Dr. Jhin puts it, “Why do it if there could be even a slight risk?”
If you liked our post 3 Important Considerations If You’re Thinking About Tattoo Removal While Pregnant, make sure to check out the story Can You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?