Castillo recommends seeing a licenced piercer to remove navel jewelry, even if the hole is already healed, not only because the angles can be tricky, but also to ensure no bacteria buildup has occurred.
As for when to have your navel piercing removed, it varies from person to person, according to Castillo. “It really, really just depends on how fast your body’s changing, because your belly button is going to keep stretching, so it just depends on the person. But I always tell people to keep an eye on their belly button and always keep in touch with their doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask, ‘Is this starting to look bad?’ and then taking action from there.”
Best — and Worst — Navel Jewelry to Wear When Pregnant
Although it’s not medically unsafe to keep a navel piercing throughout the pregnancy, all body jewelry is not created equal, especially when it comes to pregnancy outies. Soon-to-be-parents who choose to keep their piercing intact for nine months may find their pre-pregnancy jewelry uncomfortable, especially if their belly button pops.
“There’s definitely jewelry that I’d recommend pregnant women staying away from,” says Castillo. “You’d want to avoid most metal-based jewelry for sure, like steel, titanium, and gold, even. There’s no flexibility with metals.”
As bellies begin to expand, jewelry with no give may rub against or get caught on clothing, which can be painful. If this happens, Castillo recommends replacing a metal piercing with a bendy bar made of silicon, plastic or PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene, which, despite the intimidating name, is just another form of Teflon used on non-stick pans, but produced without the dangerous chemical PFOA).
“That kind of bioplastic jewelry or retainer bends with your body and from what I hear, is just more comfortable for women,” says Castillo. “I always tell people, one, listen to your doctor, most importantly, and two, there’s a higher chance of it staying open if you just take it out altogether early on in your pregnancy and putting it back in right after.”
Worst case scenario, says Castillo, even if the piercing does close a bit, you can still “get in there post-pregnancy with a really small taper, which is something we use to stretch holes.”
How to Prevent Piercing-Related Scarring
Although bodies react to stressors differently, the scar tissue created by a piercing is not going to stretch uniformly, or even the same way your regular skin stretches, says New York City board-certified plastic surgeon Melissa Doft, which means that the belly button area is going to look visibly incongruent compared to the body’s natural skin texture.