Does it hurt more to get tattooed when you're on your period?

Does it hurt more to get tattooed when you're on your period?

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I don't care what anyone says. IMO, TATTOOS HURT. Just hearing that buzz of a tattoo machine makes my skin shudder.

And another painful experience? My period. The cramps. The bleeding. And I just feel extra sensitive at that time of the month. So when you mix the two together, well, it isn't a fun experience.

However, I actually hadn't given much thought to the subject of periods and tattoos until I was under the needle at one particular appointment and it just seemed to hurt so much more than usual. As I was chatting to the tattooist, I told her how I was feeling. "Are you on your period?" she asked. I was like, OMG YES. Now it all makes sense.

Since that point, I try to never book a tattoo appointment when I'm due on my period. Look, I know, sometimes it's impossible to plan. And also maybe, it isn't actually more painful, and I just wasn't feeling it on that particular day when I just happened to be on my period when I was getting tattooed. 

So I thought I'd conduct some research and pass on my findings...

Do tattoos really hurt more when you're on your period?

I started with a (super scientific, obvs) poll on my Instagram account.


I asked my followers: Calling all tattoo collectors, does it hurt more to get tattooed when you're on your period? And more than 100 people responded. 

Drum roll please, the results are in...63% of you said that absolutely yes it definitely hurts more to get tattooed when you're on your period. Just 4% said no it doesn't hurt more. And 33% hadn't noticed any difference at all.

Tattoo by @hexenwerk_tattoos

The majority of those asked felt that getting tattooed while they're menstruating made the whole experience more uncomfortable. But why exactly is that? And is there anything we can do about it?

The reason tattoos feel differently at varying points in your menstrual cycle

"Sex hormones – ie oestrogen and progesterone – are implicated in moderating pain," explains midwife and tattoo collector, Sam. "Oestrogen is lowest during a period when pain is perceived as highest."

"Although the effect of hormones is complex and not well understood," Sam continues. "Research is limited but it does show differences in pain related brain activation during the cycle. In theory a tattoo might hurt most during a period and least during ovulation. But any real difference is probably minimal and it just hurts all the time."

There is some medical research into this too. Not lots, but some."Women's health overall is poorly researched and funded," explains Sam.

But this study – pain perception across the menstrual cycle phases in women with chronic pain – for example showed there were phase differences in pain ratings during the menstrual cycle. Women rated pain significantly higher in the menstrual and premenstrual phases than in the mid-menstrual and ovulatory phases of their cycle. 

Should I cancel my tattoo appointment if it coincides with my period?

Here's the thing. Pain toleration is different for everyone. And if you've waited a long time to book in with a tattooist, you might not want to cancel or move an appointment. Also you might not be able to, as maybe you've literally just come on your period on the morning of your appointment so you'd lose your deposit and it would be too late for the tattooist to find someone else to fill your spot. 

Most importantly, being on your period won't directly affect your tattoo. You'll still get a beautiful work of art on your skin. It might just be a little more uncomfortable to get there.

Tattoo by hollihorrortattoos

So how should I prepare for a tattoo appointment if I am due on my period?

This advise holds whether you're on your period or not. Don't drink any alcohol on the day of your appointment or the day before it, as it thins your blood. 

Also probably best not to take certain kinds of pain-killers. "Over-the-counter pain medications commonly used for menstrual cramps, such as Ibuprofen, can thin your blood and inhibit its ability to clot, which could lead to more bleeding [during your tattoo]," according to a gynaecologist for Byrdie

On the morning of your tattoo, "eat a good breakfast," advises Sam. "And you could take some paracetamol or co-codamol, which is available over the counter, half an hour before the start of your tattoo. Ibuprofen is also good to minimise swelling after your appointment."

Plus, try to get a good night's sleep, drink plenty of water, wear something super comfy to your tattoo appointment, take some snacks with you and breathe deeply. Oh and employ some distraction tactics by popping in your headphones to listen to some music or a podcast while that needle is scraping over your skin.

And you can always ask for breaks, your tattoo artist will understand.

Good luck.