Our contributor Lucy wonders if you should ever get tattooed while you’re on your period… would you?
Let me set the scene a little. It’s the very early hours of the morning before my first ever tattoo and I suddenly wake up feeling that oh so familiar cramping sensation in my abdomen, and as an individual who experiences severe dysmenorrhea (also known as debilitating period pain), I knew this was potentially very bad news. A wave of complete panic overcomes me, and I go straight to Google, trying to find every piece of advice available on ‘tattoos and periods’ while worrying I would have to cancel my booking at the last minute…
I came across a variety of advice telling me things like I shouldn’t take medication (like ibuprofen) before a tattoo, that periods make tattoo pain worse and that the general rule of thumb is ‘avoid getting tattooed on your period’. After all my stressed-out research, I decided to do the sensible thing and wait until the morning to contact my tattoo artist and ask if I could take painkillers before my tattoo. I felt too embarrassed to be honest and say that I needed the medication for menstrual cramps, so I found myself lying and blaming it on ‘back pain’.
Luckily, my artist was happy for me to take some ibuprofen and while this stopped the period cramps it didn’t stop the fear I now had that my period would cause my first tattoo to be more painful than normal.
Looking back on the experience now, I can say with certainty that, personally, my period did not affect my tattoo pain and that overall, my experience getting a tattoo while on my period was entirely normal.
But this might not be the same for everyone, the ‘taboo’ nature of period discussion makes it so we fear talking about this normal part of life. Instead we retreat to Google which inevitably leads to us finding unsettling period and tattoo related horror stories and myths, causing stress and anxiety. We need to open the narrative on tattoos and periods to help make those who menstruate feel more comfortable and confident when in the tattoo chair on their period.
To help start dispelling myths and opening up discussion, I’ve compiled a short list of some important things to know when getting a tattoo during your period:
- Be aware that some individuals who menstruate do experience heightened skin sensitivity. If you feel particularly worried about this, if possible, it may be best to book larger tattoos or tattoos in sensitive areas on days when you are not on your period, but smaller ones should be fine. Sensitive areas are more prone to period related inflammation, so they hold more potential to cause worse pain during your tattoo.
- Always check with your artist when taking any kind of medication or herbal supplements before your tattoo. Ibuprofen and paracetamol have blood thinning properties that can cause your tattoo to bleed more and herbal supplements can sometimes affect the clotting process. A small amount of medication is usually fine, but always check with your artist.
- Make sure to bring extra sanitary products to your appointment and don’t be afraid to ask to use the toilet during your tattoo. Some people like to double-up on their protection before an appointment (e.g. using period underwear and a sanitary pad or tampon or using a heavier flow sanitary item for extra protection against leaks).
- Finally, don’t let your period control your life! If you are experiencing painful cramps, extremely heavy flow, or other symptoms you feel are abnormal for you, it’s always best to seek medical advice, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Menstruating is normal and we shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of it.
Overall, always remember that it’s your body and your rules. While some people might entirely avoid getting tattooed during their period, others might not mind it at all, but by talking about it and being vocal we actively help to break the harmful stigma that surrounds periods.
Words: Lucy Edwards, a 20-year-old tattooed university student, cat mum and trying-new-things enthusiast. You’ll most likely find Lucy posting about mental health awareness and self-acceptance on her Instagram.