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Does having a lower back tattoo mean no labor epidural?


Updated February 11, 2012

39 Weeks - 3rd Baby - Stretch Marks - Tattoo - Pregnant Belly Gallery
Photo © L. Little
Question: Does having a lower back tattoo mean no labor epidural?
Answer: About a quarter of the population between 18-50 has a tattoo, including many childbearing aged women who have them on the lower back or lumbar region. Some anesthesiologists have speculated that placing an epidural during labor through this tattoo may be dangerous. The theory is that if you place the epidural needle through the ink, the dye in the skin may enter the epidural space and cause infection or damage. Other doctors offer the advice that if the tattoo is healed and the ink is dry there is no cause for concern.

The truth is we really don't know, as very few women have been studied. One recent study involved three women. You may still opt for epidural anesthesia if you are pregnant, you can even request that they avoid placing the needle through your tattoo. If you are at the planning stages for a tattoo, consider a different location if you feel this decision is one you'd prefer to avoid.

Currently the FDA does not recommend certain inks over others.


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