[Collected via e-mail, 2002]
I have a tattoo on my lower back and I have recently been told that when I go into labor, that I will not be able to recieve an epidural because of this tattoo. I was told that doctors will not go through the ink in my body with the epidural needle.
[Collected via e-mail, 2005]
I've heard two times in the last month or so that women who have lower back tattoos can't get epidurals. One person I overheard said that it was because the needle wouldn't pierce the tattoo, while the other said it was because the needle could drag ink from the tattoo into the spine.
Origins: As sacral or lumbar region tattoos have become an increasingly accepted form of body decoration, the belief that having them may negatively impact women's ability to secure anesthesia administered into the spine during childbirth has grown apace. The most common form of the rumor posits a danger of the tattoo dye being introduced into the spine by way of being pushed there by the needle used to deliver the anesthetic that blocks the
There exists a divide in informed opinion on whether such danger is actual or naught but lore. Of the various anesthetists we've canvassed in the U.S. (either directly or by way of asking their friends, family, and colleagues to quiz them on our behalf — we've apparently served to liven a number of operating room conversations), none thought administering an epidural through a tattoo in the small of the back would present any risk to the patient. Indeed, many members of the medical profession stated they themselves had performed the procedure under such conditions or had observed it being performed by others.
Those who believe epidurals through tattoos pose no danger have explained the dye used in body art becomes fixed within the tissue and so could not be dislodged by the
Body decoration by inking has its pitfalls. Hepatitis is easily passed to the art wearer because it is a hardy virus that can live for weeks outside a human host and so can survive on tattooing implements that have not been carefully cleaned. Another negative, one less known among tattoo seekers, concerns Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Because some tattoo inks contain metal fibers such as iron oxide which can cause intense skin burning and swelling during MRI procedures, some radiology departments are refusing to perform these scans on patients who have tattoos.
Whatever the medical world ultimately determines as the truth about potential risk regarding the combination of sacral tattoos and epidurals, I can't help but be struck by the parallels between the modern rumor about inked vixens having to give birth unbuffered by pain medications and the penalty visited upon Eve for leading Adam astray. Eve, the original bad woman, the vamp, was punished for her part in the "Have an apple, sweetheart" fiasco by being cursed by God on high with the pain of childbirth, with the whammy laid upon her passed down to all her descendents (that is, all womanhood). Lumbar region tattoos on women are seen as communicating
Barbara "garden of eden variety" Mikkelson
Last updated: 6 February 2006
McMullen, Cynthia. "Bodies of Art: At Tattoo Convention, Every Picture Tells a Story." Richmond Times Dispatch. 18 March 2004 (p. D20). Rinaldo, Sandie. "Tattoos May Make Epidurals Dangerous." CTV News. 19 February 2005. Squires, Rochelle. "Buyer Beware: Body Art Could Put Your Health at Risk." Winnipeg Sun. 2 March 2005 (p. 10). Stevenson, Bev. "Tattoo You?" Alberta RN. 1 December 2004 (p. 10).