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Belly button or naval piercings can take longer to heal. Knowing what to expect can help you avoid complications.

Piercing is one of the oldest and most practiced forms of body modification. This practice has expanded to many different areas of the body, including the belly button.

Read on to learn about belly button piercings and how to care for them.

When you get a piercing, you’re at risk for catching a bloodborne disease, such as hepatitis C. The degree of risk depends on where you go to get the piercing and the standards of the place and person performing the piercing. This is why choosing your piercer is so important.

It’s common practice to ask around for recommendations when looking for a piercer. Word of mouth is often the best way to find a reliable and reputable shop.

Make sure you visit the shop ahead of time so you can get a feel for the place. It should be clean, well-lit, and fully licensed.

Don’t rely on amateurs or DIY videos when it comes to getting a body piercing. When a piercing is performed outside of a specialized, sterile environment, your risk for contracting an infectious disease increases.

While you’re at the shop, ask the piercer about their process and the sterilization methods they use.

Generally, piercers use an autoclave to kill any possible bacteria or other pathogens on the equipment. An autoclave is typically used to sterilize tools that are reusable, such as opening and closing pliers for body jewelry.

All piercing needles should come in sealed, sterile packages. This means they haven’t been used on anyone else. It’s important to not share needles. Doing so increases your risk for bloodborne disease.

Your piercer should also wear disposable gloves at all times.

If the shop uses piercing guns, cancel any appointment you may have made.

Reusable piercing guns can transmit bodily fluids across customers. They can also cause local tissue damage during the piercing process.

Choosing your jewelry

Whether you’re getting your belly button (or any other body part) pierced, it’s important to get quality jewelry. Skimping on the material can lead to undue irritation or infection. Opt for a belly button ring made of 14- or 18-karat gold, titanium, surgical steel, or niobium. Avoid nickel alloys and brass. They can increase your risk for an allergic reaction.

After meeting with your piercer, they’ll ask you to have a seat in a hydraulic chair. Generally, they’ll recline your chair until you’re lying in a relaxed position.

The piercer will disinfect the area around your navel. If you have body hair around your navel, they may remove this with a new disposable razor.

Next, they’ll mark the spot on your navel they wish to pierce. You should have the opportunity to confirm the placement or discuss the possibility of piercing a different area. For a traditional belly button piercing, they’ll mark the true center above your navel.

After the placement is confirmed, the piercer will use a hollow needle to create a hole in the designated location. Once the hole has been made, they may use forceps to hold the area of skin taut while they insert the jewelry.

You may experience a little bit of bleeding. The piercer will clean up your navel and give you instructions for aftercare.

Any initial itchiness and localized tenderness is normal.

If you experience any discomfort or tightness, it’s recommended that you remove the jewelry that’s currently in place. You can do this yourself with clean hands, or have it done at the shop where you got pierced. But if signs of infection are present, seek medical treatment.

To keep the piercing tract open, you can replace this jewelry with a piece of safe, inert plastic known as a piercing retainer. You can also leave the piercing empty. However, this may cause the hole to close.

It can take anywhere from nine months to a year for a belly button piercing to fully heal. This is because of the constant movement associated with the location. Keeping the area as bacteria-free as possible is essential to healing.

During the healing process, you should do the following:

  • Avoid hot tubs, pools, and lakes. Your wound can come into contact with bacteria in the water.
  • Opt for clean, loose-fitting clothing. Tight garments can irritate the area and trap bacteria.
  • Protect the piercing. Use a protective bandagewhen you exercise, and clean up the area afterward to avoid irritation or infection.
  • Avoid the sun to prevent sunburns.

It’s normal to see an off-white fluid coming out of the area in the first few days after your piercing. This fluid may form a crusty material. Think of this as your body coming to terms with the new object in your navel.

After washing your hands with soap and water, clean the area with warm water. Don’t pick at the area, as it can cause further irritation or bleeding.

Your piercer may recommend you do the following during cleaning:

  • Apply a small amount of soap on the new piercing and the area for about 30 seconds. Thoroughly rinse afterward.
  • Use a sterile saline solution to soak the area for 5 to 10 minutes daily.
  • Use disposable, soft paper products to pat dry.
Piercings and pregnancy

If you become pregnant after having your belly button pierced, you don’t have to part with your jewelry unless it becomes uncomfortable.

It’s normal for the area to feel sore for a few days after the piercing. If you’re experiencing symptoms that are unusual or that occur after the first few days, reach out to your piercer or doctor.

The symptoms of an infection can include:

If you develop an infection or other irritation, be sure to speak with your piercer or doctor before applying any ointment or other topical treatment to the area.

Choosing to get a piercing is a big decision that requires a lot of aftercare. It can be done safely as long as you make sure to keep the area clean and free of bacteria. Taking care of your general health can help you heal faster and reduce your risk for developing complications.