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Adolescence, Pregnancy, Risk, Tattooing



  1. Armstrong, Myrna L. EdD, RN, FAAN
  2. Masten, Yondell PhD, RNC, WHNP, CNS
  3. Martin, Rhonda MS, RN


Purpose: To determine pregnant adolescents' interest in tattooing and identify additional risk-taking behaviors practiced by tattooed pregnant adolescents.


Design: A descriptive study with a convenience sample of 41 pregnant adolescents was conducted. The majority of participants were 16 to 17 years of age, 7 to 9 months gestation, single, in the 10th to 11th grades, and primarily White. A subgroup of five participants were tattooed. Participants completed the 71-item Armstrong Tattoo (AT) questionnaire. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the sample and evaluate responses.


Results: The majority of adolescents expressed interest in becoming tattooed; 48% expressed fear (disease, pain) as a deterrent to becoming tattooed. All tattooed participants had received tattoos prior to pregnancy. Decisions to become tattooed were made rapidly at 14 to 16 years of age, and all tattooed participants were impregnated by tattooed males. Most tattooed participants perceived themselves as risk takers, and all denied additional health problems (infection, blood-borne disease) related to the tattooing process.


Clinical Implications: Proactive, preventive health education regarding maternal/fetal risks related to amateur and professional tattooing during pregnancy is needed. Pregnant adolescents aged 14 to 16 years who are dating a tattooed male may be at greater risk for impulsively deciding to become tattooed.