- With Mayo Clinic obstetrician and medical editor-in-chief
Roger W. Harms, M.D.read biographyclose window
Roger W. Harms, M.D.Roger W. Harms, M.D.
"Nothing helps people stay healthy more than the power of real knowledge about health." — Dr. Roger Harms
As medical director of content, Dr. Roger Harms is excited about the potential for Mayo Clinic's health information site to help educate people about their health and provide them the tools and information to live healthier lives.
The Auburn, Neb., native has been with Mayo Clinic since 1981 and is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Harms is a practicing physician and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and his specialty areas include office gynecology, high-risk obstetrics and obstetrical ultrasound.
From 2002 to 2007, Dr. Harms was director for education at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dr. Harms was the 1988 Mayo Medical School Teacher of the Year and served as associate dean for student affairs and academic affairs. He is the co-author of the "Mayo Clinic Model of Education." In 2008, Dr. Harms was presented the Distinguished Educator Award, Mayo Clinic, Rochester.
Dr. Harms is vice chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and medical editor of the Pregnancy section on this website. In addition, Dr. Harms is editor-in-chief of the "Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy" book, a month-by-month guide to everything a woman needs to know about having a baby.
"My medical education experience has grown out of a love of teaching, and that is what this site is about," Dr. Harms says. "If any visitor to this site makes a more informed and thus more comfortable decision about his or her health because of the information we provide, we are successful."
Labor and delivery (7)
- Doula: Do you need a doula?
- Back labor: Childbirth myth or reality?
- Cord blood banking: What are the options?
- see all in Labor and delivery
Postpartum care (4)
- Lactation suppression: Can medication help?
- Sagging breasts: Inevitable after breast-feeding?
- Low milk supply: What causes it?
- see all in Postpartum care
Lower back tattoo: OK to have an epidural?
Could a lower back tattoo keep me from having an epidural during labor?
from Roger W. Harms, M.D.
A lower back tattoo won't necessarily prevent you from having an epidural during labor. The exception would be if the tattoo is red, swollen or oozing fluid — or if the tattoo is recent and the affected skin is still healing.
Research on tattoos and epidurals is limited. Theoretical concerns — such as the development of skin cancer in the affected area years later — remain controversial. Actual reports of problems associated with epidurals and lower back tattoos are exceedingly rare.
If you have a lower back tattoo and decide to have an epidural during labor, the anesthesiologist will likely try to insert the needle through skin that isn't tattooed — such as an open area in the tattoo design.
If that isn't possible, the anesthesiologist might nick your skin before inserting the needle. This reduces any possible risk associated with trapping tattoo pigment inside the needle or depositing the pigment into deeper tissues.
Keep in mind that placing a needle through the tattoo might result in a small scar that could alter the appearance of the tattoo.
If you're concerned about the unknowns associated with tattoos and epidurals, you might ask your health care provider about other options for pain relief during labor — such as relaxation exercises, breathing techniques, or oral or injected medications.Next question
Repeat C-sections: Is there a limit?
- Welliver D, et al. Lumbar epidural catheter placement in the presence of low back tattoos: A review of the safety concerns. AANA Journal. 2010;78:197.
- Kluger N. Body art and pregnancy. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. 2010;153:3.
- Mercier FJ, et al. Tattooing and various piercing: Anaesthetic considerations. Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology. 2009;22:436.
- Horlocker TT (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 4, 2012.