As body piercing has become more popular, many people have tried to outdo each other with unusual piercings. Most piercings have a long history among tribal peoples, and have been discovered based on long periods of trial and error with different areas of the body and the susceptibility of these areas to infection, inflammation and pain.
How can I find a good piercer?
Your body is something that must be treated with the utmost care, especially with the increased threat of HIV-AIDS and Hepatitis, which can both be contracted through needles, piercing and tattooing. Therefore, extreme caution should be exercised when selecting a body piercer. Unfortunately, because of its increasing popularity, body piercing has attracted a lot of unqualified and ill-informed people who are providing shoddy work for a quick profit. Proper body piercing requires a great deal of experience and knowledge of a broad range of subjects, most importantly proper sterilization procedures due to the high-risk that blood borne pathogens can be transmitted from one patient to another.
So how do you decide if a piercer is competent? Ask around; see what kind of reputation different establishments have. Check with you local Health Department (in most places piercers are required to be registered) and ask for a recommendation. Once you've decided on your choice of piercer, call or see them; don't be afraid to ask questions. Have a look around the shop -- it should look and smell clean and the piercing should be done in a special room (for privacy and hygiene). Ask them how they sterilize their instruments and jewelry (autoclaving is the only safe method). All needles should be in autoclave or commercial packaging, and should be opened just prior to the piercing, and then disposed of immediately.
To minimize the possibility of infection, the piercing should be performed using Aseptic or "Sterile" techniques, which requires that all supplies used during the piercing should come out of sterile packages; this includes gloves and especially tools and jewelry. The jewelry should either be sterilized in autoclave bags or disinfected in a hospital grade disinfectant like Madacide or Wavicide. This method is only suitable for clean, new, unused jewelry. Piercers should provide you with a detailed aftercare sheet, which will outline the procedures you need to follow to look after the piercing while it's healing and the aftercare products you need to use.
How much pain is involved?
There will be some initial sensitivity for the first 2-3 days, but there may be more with any piercing of a mucous membrane areas like the tongue, lips and genitals. This is because these areas are highly vascularised (and rightly supplied with blood), causing them to swell a lot when pierced. Soreness may last from a few days to a few months depending on how well you take care of the piercing (i.e. cleaning it sufficiently and refraining from bumping it).
How long do body piercings take to heal?
There are many factors that may affect your body's ability to heal a wound. The major factor affecting wound healing is your general health. If you are sick, run- down or over-worked, you will have a weakened immune system and will experience delayed healing and an increased chance of infection. Smoking, poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise can also result in delayed healing.
Any pressure on a piercing has the potential to cause aggravation, and, if continued for a long period, can result in inflammation. If you play contact sports or work in a job that requires manual labor, you should carefully consider whether a nipple or navel piercing is practical. If you swim in public pools you have more chance of developing an infection, however you can cover the piercing with a waterproof bandage.
The navel takes the longest to heal after being pierced. This is because movement and constrictive clothing knock it around, and it generally takes 3-4 months to heal. Other piercings heal more quickly, but most piercings (even ears) take a minimum of 6 weeks to heal. Wearing tight clothes, touching the piercing with dirty hands, contact with bodily fluids, rough treatment, and using inappropriate cleaning agents will all hamper the healing process. Following the instructions in the care sheet carefully will minimize problems and dramatically reducing the healing time.
Is piercing dangerous, can I get HIV or Hepatitis?
Yes. Piercing can be dangerous if performed by inadequately trained operators. Responsible piercers follow the principles of Aseptic or "Sterile" technique, which are the methods used for surgical operations and provide the least chance of infection. Autoclaving, the process that is used in hospitals, should be used to sterilize all instruments and jewelry. Sterile dressing packs, sterile gloves, and sterile single-use needles should be used for each customer, and they should be opened in front of you before the piercing, and immediately disposed of in front of you, into an approved container.
If you use a reputable, qualified and responsible piercer, your chances of getting an infection, HIV or Hepatitis are minimal, however it is your responsibility to ensure that the piercing is performed safely. So do the research and check out the piercers thoroughly. If they are professional, they should be happy and able to answer any of your queries.
Are there any conditions that totally preclude getting a piercing?
There are several medical problems that make it dangerous to get a piercing. If you have one of these conditions, it may be too risky for you to get a piercing. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
Diabetes & haematopoietic abnormalities: Both present difficulties for piercing, because they reduce the body's ability to heal wounds properly. The increased incidence of infections associated with diabetes may also contribute to impaired wound healing.
Hemophilia: Because hemophiliacs have a greater tendency to hemorrhage and a greatly reduced ability to heal wounds, this disease precludes piercing.
What if I get an infection, or have some other problem?
There is always a possibility of infection with any wound, no matter how small. But, provided you follow the appropriate aftercare procedures thoroughly, the chance of an infection is minimal. Some people may confuse the small amount of redness that denotes normal healing with infection; however, infections usually result from the use of poor grade jewelry and improper aftercare procedures. It is recommended that the recipient of the piercing is up to date on their Tetanus shots.
Will nipple piercing affect breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is not affected by nipple piercing, however, your nipples may become very tender during pregnancy and you may have to remove the jewelry. If you leave the jewelry in, barbells can be worn, which allow the infant to suckle easily. Circular barbells may also be used, which can be easily taken in and out during feeding. The easiest option is removal of the jewelry and replacement after breastfeeding is over.
What are the most popular piercings?
After ear piercing, the navel (belly button) is the most popular, followed by tongue piercing. The tongue piercing is increasing in popularity, possibly because it heals more quickly than the navel piercing (in about 2 weeks), and is reportedly very effective for inducing sexual stimulation. Nipple piercing ranks fourth in popularity. This piercing may create a greater and more pleasurable degree of sensitivity for the wearer, making sexual play more exciting. Also, a growing number of people are experimenting with genital piercings.
What effect do piercings have during sex?
A great many of the places to be pierced are erogenous zones (even the ears have a slight erotic connection). Piercings may enhance sex by providing a greater degree of stimulation. Areas such as the tongue and nipple are very popular places to be pierced because of the extra stimulation they provide. Contrary to what might be expected, genital piercings usually are not very painful and heal very quickly (usually 2-3 weeks). Some report genital piercings to be very effective for enhancing sexual pleasure; however, the possibilities of infection, inflammation and contracting an STD definitely detract from sexual enjoyment.
Male Genital Piercing
Many men looking to increase the stimulation they receive from sex decide to get a genital piercing. Piercing on male genitals can have serious complications, but if performed well and properly cared for can greatly increase the pleasure of sex. There are many piercings available and each should be carefully considered, researched, and performed by an experienced professional.
The most popular of all male piercings is the Prince Albert. It has the fastest healing time and is considered the most sexually appealing male piercing. This piercing goes into the urethra and comes out the bottom of the head. A variation of this piercing, called the reverse Prince Albert, comes over the top of the head. This piercing requires less cleaning than most since urine aids in the healing process, however, most men will have to sit down in order to urinate. Allow 2-4 months to heal, one week of abstinence, and condom use is advised until fully healed.
The ampallang piercing is a piercing through the head of the penis that can be placed above, under, or through the urethra (transurethral). This is not a very popular piercing and more difficult than most. Straight bars are required for this piercing which goes horizontally through the head of the penis. This can be a very uncomfortable and painful piercing due to the thickness and nature of the glans that could take several seconds to perform as it must be done slowly. The piercing may bleed for up to five days and will take anywhere between 4 and 12 months to heal. Two weeks of abstinence is required after getting the piercing and extreme care must be taken until the glans is completely healed. This piercing is often sought after for sexual reasons: the bearer of the ampallang receives stimulation of the internal tissues. A female recipient of coitus may also find the piercing pleasurable due to the stimulation of her G-Spot.
Similar to the ampallang, the apadravya goes through the glans of the penis; however, this piercing is placed vertically through the head. Placement of the needle is crucial because if misplaced, it could lead to profuse bleeding and possibly death. Less severe complications include migration or gradual rejection of the jewelry. This piercing is slow and painful, so it is important that it be performed by an experienced piercer. The piercing itself, which is considered the most pleasurable for female partners, can be placed through or around the urethra, but must not puncture the corpus cavernosum. These two piercings can be combined to form what some people call the "Magic Cross."
The dydoe is an anatomy-dependant piercing, which means that it is typically requested by circumcised men. It is still possible to perform a dydoe piercing on uncircumcised men, however the presence of the foreskin keeps the area moist and hinders the healing process. Most commonly the ridge of the penis' head is pierced by a curved barbell. It is said to increase stimulation of the glans where its sensitivity may have been damaged from circumcision. The dydoe is considered one of the most painful piercings. Condom use is strongly recommended until the piercing is fully healed.
Created March 10, 2006, last updated June 1, 2007