Laser tattoo removal is generally a safe process. However, it can be complicated and difficult -- especially if you’re pregnant. If you’ve thought about having laser tattoo removal done, you might question the potential risks it could pose on you and your baby’s health.
So should you undergo laser tattoo removal while pregnant? The short answer is no. Although it’s not an unsafe procedure, it’s not recommended for pregnant women either. As far as research is concerned, there is not enough evidence that proves laser tattoo removal is a risk-free process for a pregnant person.
Maybe you want to take maternity photos but are conscious about visible tattoos or you’re really itching to get rid of regrettable body art before giving birth. Regardless of your reason, you should seriously reconsider having laser tattoo removal done.
Tattoo removal is a complicated cosmetic treatment. Depending on the size, age, colors, and location of the tattoos, you may need to schedule laser sessions over the course of several months. The price for laser tattoo removal can also be expensive, which might not be ideal if you’re preparing for a baby. In terms of health risks and safety concerns, the American Medical Association advises patients to avoid any type of laser removal during pregnancy, for reasons such as:
Laser tattoo removal is a procedure that breaks up the tattoo colors using pulses of high intensity light beams. As the dark tattoo pigment at the surface layer of your skin absorbs light, the heat dissolves the ink into tiny fragments. However, this removal process can pose a risk for pregnant patients.
When the laser breaks up tattoo ink into nano-particles, the tiny pieces of ink are absorbed into the body. The problem is in the pigment. Tattoo ink contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), such as benzopyrene -- a human carcinogen. Other chemical formulations may include harmful metal impurities like nickel, cobalt, copper, and chromium. For an ordinary person, the immune system clears out all potential toxins before letting the ink pass through the body.
However, there is still no definitive proof that treated ink particles can or cannot cross the fetal placental barrier. While it could be harmless, different people may develop different reactions to a foreign chemical entering their bodies. The chemicals in tattoo ink may produce a negative reaction in both mother and baby.
There is not enough medical studies to know the effects of the laser on an unborn baby. Most dermatologists never perform scientific experiments on pregnant women, especially cosmetic procedures which alter their physical state. As expectant mothers are never used as “guinea pigs” for research, there could be unknown risks for them and the baby.
Most reputable laser tattoo removal clinics would ask patients to wait 3 months after pregnancy and breastfeeding to undergo the procedure. This is done as a precaution to avoid complications for the fetus or growing infant.
Even though there isn’t any research on pregnant women and laser tattoo removal, doctors and dermatologists have observed that human photosensitivity increases during pregnancy. Higher levels of photosensitivity means skin becomes more sensitive to light and more likely to react to lasers, which may cause scarring or skin pigmentation.
During pregnancy, pregnant women can easily contract infections as their skin changes and expands. Although the chance of skin infection is low with laser tattoo removal, it’s possible that a reaction may occur during treatment. Blistering, cracking, and scarring in the removal area can lead to infection but with limited options for treatment. Dermatologists often find it difficult to treat infections in a pregnant person, as certain antibiotics may affect fetus development.
Aside from photosensitivity and potential skin infection, an allergic reaction is another potential risk to health. Allergies to tattoo ink can lead to persistent itching, swelling, and redness of the skin. Discomfort and pain from the laser procedure may also cause an expectant mother undue physical stress, which may negatively affect the baby.
Q: Is it possible to undergo laser tattoo removal if you’re breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding mothers are not ideal candidates for laser tattoo removal. There are no studies done on the subject, so it’s unknown if the tattoo ink nanoparticles can reach breast milk. Existing research shows that ink from tattoos can travel through the bloodstream to the lymph nodes or liver, so it’s better to be cautious if you’re producing breast milk for an infant. Medical professionals recommend undergoing laser tattoo removal at least three months after breastfeeding is over.
Q: What if the pregnancy was discovered after a laser removal session?
There is usually no need to worry if you found out that you were already pregnant when you had laser removal done. For patients in the first trimester, there is minimal risk to the body. Laser removal during this time is also unlikely to harm the fetus, as the ink particles will disperse from the skin within 4 - 8 weeks.
Of course, any succeeding sessions should be postponed until after the baby has been born and breastfed. In cases like this, patients should notify their laser technician and schedule consultations with a medical professional. It helps to ask each question you have directly and receive advice for your peace of mind.
Overall, there really is not enough evidence to suggest exactly what the harm laser tattoo removal could cause on a pregnant person. However, it’s considered to be an unnecessary gamble with the patient’s health and their unborn child’s. Even if there is only a slight chance of a complication, it should be avoided.
Looking for a professional tattoo removal clinic in NJ? Ethos Spa is the best place to go.
With our state-of-the-art PicoSure laser system, we have helped thousands of people get rid of their unwanted tattoos safely and effectively; our world class service keeps our patients perfectly satisfied. Book consultations with us today if you’re rethinking your ink.
Learn more: Old vs New Tattoo Removal: Which Is Easier To Remove?