“Isabella” is such a pretty and unsuspecting name for a piercing that can do some major damage to your clitoris and permanently affect your sexual function.
When it comes to genital piercings, any piercing that involves the glans of the clitoris has a higher risk of injury and complications, including damage to the nerves and blood supply.
Isabella piercings are especially risky because of their location and depth. They pierce deep into the clitoral shaft, which is home to blood vessels, ligaments, nerves, and connective tissues.
In an older edition of the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) newsletter, the Isabella was compared to “having all the equivalent male anatomy stapled together with one piece of jewelry.” Ouch.
Reputable piercers won’t perform Isabella piercings because of the risks involved, some of which can be permanent.
- vascular damage
- nerve damage
- loss of sensation
- diminished sexual function, which includes desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction
- excessive bleeding
- poor healing
- pain during intercourse
Then there are the usual risks associated with body piercings, including:
- migration and rejection
The Nefertiti piercing is sometimes offered as a safer alternative to the Isabella. But most experienced piercers won’t do the Nefertiti piercing, either, because it poses similar risks.
That said, there are other piercings you might want to consider, depending on the look or effect you’re after.
Here are a few to consider that are a lot safer.
Vertical clitoral hood (VCH)
The VCH pierces vertically through a thin section of the clitoral hood’s peak rather than the actual clit, which eliminates any risk of nerve damage.
Using a curved barbell, you can achieve a look that’s pretty similar to an Isabella without the risk.
A VCH heals faster than most genital piercings. The placement and shape of the curved barbell makes for a piercing that tucks in, so it’s less prone to injury.
Bonus: It’s more likely to improve sexual function than destroy it.
The Christina piercing — also sometimes called a Venus — is another non-clit piercing that offers a similar look to an Isabella.
The piercing goes through the cleft of Venus, which is where the labia join, and emerges through the mons pubis. This is the pad of fatty tissue just above that covers your pubic bone.
Like an Isabella, a Christina is also a vertical piercing, though it sits up higher.
The downside is that it takes longer to heal than some other options, but it doesn’t involve the risk of bleeding or nerve damage like the Isabella.
The triangle is a bit like a horizontal Isabella, only it runs just underneath instead of through the shaft of the clit.
There’s a higher possibility of nerve injury or damage with this piercing than other genital piercings, as the piercer has to rely mainly on feel for placement.
But compared to the risk from the Isabella, which goes through the shaft, the risk level is a lot lower, especially when done by an experienced piercer.
If you’re determined to pierce the actual clit, then a glans piercing is the way to go.
Just know that these are very rare. Piercing a nub that contains thousands of nerve endings is INTENSE, and the mere thought is crotch-clutching scary to most.
This piercing can be done vertically or horizontally. A vertical piercing goes through the clitoral head. The horizontal version pierces through the midpoint of the clit.
There’s a risk of nerve damage when piercing the glans, though with an experienced piercer, the risk of this or any other serious injury is very low, and certainly lower than with an Isabella.
If you already have an Isabella, you might still have a chance of experiencing nerve damage, loss of sensation, and other complications, even if the piercing has healed.
While there’s no need to remove it immediately, be sure to see your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:
- Bleeding. Some light bleeding for the first few days after any body piercing is normal. Bleeding that persists beyond that or is excessive is not.
- Pain. Tenderness isn’t unusual after puncturing any tissue, let alone such a nerve-rich area. Pain that’s severe, persistent, or gets worse could indicate an injury or infection.
- Numbness. Any decrease in sensitivity, including numbness or a total loss of sensation, could be a sign of nerve damage or impaired blood supply.
- Discharge. Some discharge and crusting in the first days after a piercing isn’t unusual. This is usually odorless and clear discharge that may have a hint of blood. Discharge that’s thick, yellow or green, pus-like, or has a foul smell indicates an infection.
- Hot skin. Cellulitis, a serious skin infection, can cause redness, inflammation, and make skin feel hot to the touch. It can also cause flu-like symptoms.
You won’t find many piercers willing to do an Isabella piercing because the risk of life-altering injuries and complications is just too high.
There are other much safer alternatives when it comes to genital piercings that can give you a similar aesthetic without risking your sexual health.
If you want to learn more about alternatives to Isabella piercings or speak to a professional about your existing Isabella, use the APP members’ directory to find a reputable piercer in your area.