What to Know Before Getting a Body Piercing
Specifically bellybuttons, but applies to other things as well.
Over this past summer, I went on a cruise with a friend of mine. We had great fun and made lots of friends, but we also made one very interesting discovery. So many of the young women or girls on the cruise had pierced bellybuttons that, on the few occasions that we saw someone without a piercing, we found that they looked naked and strange. Clearly, it's become extremely common for girls to have this done, but from the girls I've talked to, few know the risks and take precautions before they have the piercing done.
Before you decide on a time and place to get your body pierced, look around different places that offer these services. Find one that seems sterile and trustworthy. I got my belly button pierced when I was sixteen, and my mother, who works in the health care industry, took me to many places to see what they looked like. If a place does not look clean, that does not necessarily mean it really is unhygenic, but I would strongly recommend looking for a better place. Ask friends for reccomendations if they feel they have had a good experience. Some doctors do body piercings, simply to ensure that patients who want to be pierced have a safe and clean place to do it. If you can find a doctor who does them, this is probably the best way to get it done.
There are many things you should know before getting anything pierced. Once you've decided on a place, ask them for a list of things they use, such as sterilisers, metals, antibacterial products, or anything else. Make sure you're not allergic to any of them, because that can obviously cause unnecessary pain. If you are, ask if they have other products they could use. Some possible non-dangerous risks of piercing include keloid formation (especially if you're predisposed to such healing), scar tissue, and stretching of the skin.
There are many extremely dangerous health risks. Viral infections, such as Hepatitis A, B and C, can be transferred by an unsterile needle. Even scarier, HIV/AIDS can be transferred this way as well. Like I said, thoroughly check out the place you plan to get pierced before actually having it done. I recommend seeing how they sterilise their equipment to know that it's not just someone in the back room running it under water for a while. Bacterial infections can also be caused, especially staph infections. These aren't often the fault of the piercer and can be avoided if the piercing is properly taken care of, but beware of any place that uses guns to pierce anything except earlobes--they push all the material into the body that should be taken out and cause many more infections that simple needles do. A belly button can be especially dangerous to have an infection in, for if it travels anywhere it will likely go straight to your stomach. Be very careful and watch for any signs.
The 'basic' care after a piercing is very complicated and difficult to do, especially at certain times of year and if you live in certain areas. You can't go swimming until the piercing has healed completely, because things from the water could get into your body and cause an infection. Belly button piercings in particular take between 4 and 8 months to heal, while some take only a few weeks. (Note: this is only the first step of healing, much more takes place afterwards. After the initial time has passed, you should still be very careful with your piercing.) There is a lot you have to do to care for your piercing. For the first couple of weeks, apply antibiotic cream to the piercing to avoid infections. When I got my belly button pierced, I had to use a saltwater solution in a cup to soak it for the entire 8 months of the initial healing. Making sure you get enough vitamins will also help heal you faster. These sound simple, but can be very difficult if you're tired and just want to go to sleep, not soak your bellybutton for 5 minutes, apply a cream, take a multivitamin, and THEN sleep. Also, make sure you get information from the piercing location on aftercare of your specific piercing. Get enough sleep, and don't put tea tree oil on the piercing as it prevents healing. Most importantly, if anything strange seems to be happening with your piercing, return to the place you got it pierced to get their opinion, or go straight to a doctor. (Like I said, some doctors will do piercings. But all of them will help care for one if necessary.)
If you later desire to remove the jewelry and allow your piercing to heal, it should heal easily if you went to a good place and followed the aftercare instructions. Make sure not to remove the piercing if there is an infection, because that can trap the infection inside the skin.
I've heard horror stories about pregnant women who got their belly button pierced while young having their skin ripped apart. I don't believe any of these to be true. If you do plan to get pregnant and want to keep the piercing, there are plenty of pregnancy belly button ring options that are longer and more flexible. Don't let planning on having children later on stop you from getting a piercing if you really want it. Check maternitypiercings.com for some options.
Remember, all these side effects are possible, but for the most part they are very rare. Piercing is pretty much 100% reversible, so you don't have to worry about future regrets as much as you would if you were getting a tattoo. If you care for it well and make sure the place is hygenic, it's a safe procedure and a fun way to accessorise. Good luck!