Navel piercings took center stage in the 1990s and have since made a comeback. Besides the typical top bellybutton piercing, there are procedures that pierce the sides of the belly button, along with the bottom. As with any piercing, bellybutton piercings come with the risk of infection, rejection, keloids, and scars. Taking care of your wound post-piercing should help to eliminate most of these issues, but you should keep an eye out for indications of abnormalities.
A week after your piercing, swelling should decrease significantly. If you notice that the piercing site continues to grow larger, contact your physician. Complications along with swelling include discomfort around the navel, tenderness and irritation as a result of the wound rubbing against clothing. If the piercing is being pushed out of the hole due to large amounts of swelling, your body may be rejecting the piercing. Contact your physician immediately if any of the above occur.
During the first week post-piercing, pain and tenderness are completely normal. Depending on your pain threshold, you may be unable to bend at the waist or wear tight clothing. If the pain doesn’t get better or continues to worsen after a week, contact your doctor as it’s likely that you may have an infection at the piercing site. Infections may be serious, entering the blood stream and causing numerous complications.
Warmth at the piercing site is normal for the first few days, but should subside soon after. Redness is also normal within the first week, and may be accompanied with a minimal amount of swelling. However, if warmth or redness persist beyond the first week, contact your physician immediately. This could also indicate an infection that may be serious.
A telltale sign of infection is the presence of pus, a thick, yellow, green, or brown colored fluid seeping from the piercing site. Although a minimal amount of “crusting” at the site is normal, discharge is not and should be looked at immediately. Also, if your skin is discolored, you need to contact your physician immediately. Black skin around the piercing site indicates that the tissue is dying.
While keloids are generally harmless, they are unsightly and may cause irritation around the piercing site. Navel keloids occur at the piercing site after the skin has healed. The bumps are generally flesh-colored, but may appear red or pink. It may be smooth or lumpy and may cause itching as it grows. Surgical treatment is usually unnecessary, as keloids may become smaller with time. Corticosteroid injections will help to reduce the size of a navel keloid. In extreme cases, laser treatments, cryotherapy (freezing) or surgical procedures may be necessary to remove the growth (cryotherapy. Keloids may cause discomfort, tenderness, or irritation caused by friction, such as the navel piercing rubbing against clothing.
If you become pregnant and have a bellybutton ring, you may be concerned about what effect the stretching of your tummy will have on your piercing. Fortunately, body jewelry manufacturers were aware of this possibility and created pregnancy navel rings. These rings are banana-shaped and are much larger than a standard bellybutton ring. The ring is large enough to accommodate your growing stomach. However, many women may find that even the pregnancy ring is too small for their larger stomachs. If this is the case, a pregnant woman will need to contact her piercing salon to discuss tygon, a metal that may be cut and sized to create a custom piercing for her growing belly.
References and ResourcesNavel Rings: Body Piercing Care
Belly-Piercing: Belly Piercing and Keloid Scarring
National Center for Biotechnology Information: Keloids