Body Piercing and the Pregnant Woman

From my experience as a professional body piercer, I have learnt that there are many interesting and often little known facts about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding and your body piercings. I will aim to cover all the questions you many have and welcome your stories, tips and advice.

I’m Pregnant! Can I get a piercing?

Any respectable studio will have a policy of not piercing or tattooing pregnant women. The reason being that your body is already under increased stress of adapting to growing a child. A piercing is basically a wound that your body would then have to struggle to heal which can compromise your health. Be patient with your changing body and wait until you’re well recovered from the birth to get that piercing.

I’m Pregnant! Do I have to remove my piercings?

It is a common problem, that when a pregnant women goes to visit her doctor she is advised or ordered to remove her piercings that may be perceived as interfering with her growing body and childbirth.
The fact is that as long as your piercings remain comfortable and healthy, you can easily retain them during the childbearing year.

  • Navel – many women assume that because their belly will expand that a navel piercing will need to be removed. Not so – you can usually wear the original jewllery unti l the 3rd to 4th month. As your belly grows, you will want to see a reputable piercer who can insert a flexible piece of monofilament into the piercing, that is discreet and comfortable during your pregnancy. Navel piercings are notoriously difficult piercings, sometimes taking up to 2 years to heal. You do not need to give up something that you had been so patient with! Like all piercings, it is also not something that is easily “re-pierced” after the birth due to the development of scar tissue in the original piercing. Scar tissue is very painful to pierce and is more prone to bleeding. If you choose to remove your jewellery with the intention of re-piercing, be sure and consult a professional so the scar tissue is avoided.
  • Genital – Surprisingly, most of the common genital piercings can stay in place also, even during delivery. The number one reason for women removing their piercings is at the request of their doctors. It would appear that this is because they do not have experience with childbirth and piercings or that they have personal issues regarding the piercings. If you can discuss this issue at your prenatal visit and insist that you keep you labia/hood piercings, you should be able to overcome this problem. See below for more advice.
  • Nipple – As your breasts become more tender, you may find that your nipple piercings become more sensitive, possible even unbearable. You will have to decide how comfortable they are and if to keep them. Shop around for some easy-to-remove jewellery, such as a threaded ball barbell or circular barbells, so that when you start to breastfeed, you can remove the jewellery for feedings and re-insert in between feedings. In no way do pierced nipples prevent happy breastfeeding!!
  • All Others – You may find that as your body is going through such a transformation, that your piercings may react. Previously healed piercings may “flare-up” or become extra sensitive. Use your own judgement regarding the comfort levels of your piercings, but if they start to look red, angry or have a yellow/greenish discharge, consult your piercer immediately for the best course of action. Remember however, that a piercing should NEVER be removed until the infection is cleared up, as you may close of the drainage path for the infection and create an abscess.

My doctor insists that I remove my belly/nipple/genital piercings!

This is usually due to their lack of experience with such things and/or their personal disapproval. Either way, their request is often unacceptable. Provided your piercings are healthy, comfortable and not blocking your birth canal (!), you can insist that they remain. If your doctor is inflexible, try providing them with information provided by your piercer or from this article. Possibly “negotiate” by offering to wear mono filament jewellery (available from your piercer) which is flexible and often transparent. If that doesn’t work, try talking to the community midwives who may be more “tolerant” (and more likely to deliver your baby). If all fails, you may wish to consider a new caregiver. Independent midwives in my experience, have no such problems!

When I breastfeed, will I lose my nipple piercings?

Not if they’re happy and you don’t want to – Simply choose jewellery that is easy to remove for feedings and replace in-between such as circular barbells or straight barbells. Options are so varied now for jewellery that you should be able to find something that works without compromising on style! Although it should go without saying, never attempt to breastfeed with jewellery in place. It is important to establish breastfeeding without any hindrances. I did hear of a mother who breastfed her older child (12 months) with the jewellery in, but will damage baby’s mouth and cause difficulties if tried before then (possibly after too).

How soon after the birth can I get pierced/tattooed?

One of the best ways some women “re-claim” their bodies after a major experience such as childbirth is to get a piercing or tattoo. It also feels great to do something so intimate just for you! Do not be in a hurry to do this though. Even once the baby is born your body is dramatically transforming still, back into it’s pre-pregnant hormonal state and working hard on lactating. Even though 6 weeks is often given as the magic number for postpartum recovery, don’t be fooled. Give your body all the time it needs to recover, 18 months or more is not unusual, and when you feel ready to heal a new piercing or tattoo, go for it!

In General

It is disappointing to lose a piercing that you worked hard to take care of and heal – I lost my tongue piercing when it flared up after 8 happy years with pregnancy number 5! With a little research and open communication with your enlightened care-giver, you and your piercings should survive the child bearing year intact!