Body piercing has been a form of art for thousands of years, and although the exact history of nipple piercing is disputed, a 2003 article in "The Lancet" notes that it goes back at least as far as Victorian times. While piercing any body part always presents a risk for complication, good aftercare can promote healing and reduce the risk of infection.
Piercing involves driving a hole into the delicate tissues of the nipple, which can lead to swelling, bruising and bleeding -- all of which are normal and temporary. Although the initial swelling resolves during the healing process -- which varies from 6 weeks to 6 months -- some people who pierce their nipples experience a permanent enlargement of the nipple after piercing.
Infection is a complication with any body piercing. Piercing creates a deliberate wound, through which bacteria can enter. The Association of Professional Piercers recommends gently cleaning your nipples with soap and water daily, washing your hands first to avoid introducing dirt and bacteria to your piercing site. Drying your nipples with clean paper towels rather than a towel -- which can harbor bacteria, especially if it's been used already -- can also help protect against infection.
Loss of Sensation
Pain and some residual soreness of the nipple is to be expected directly after a piercing and will typically resolve as normal healing progresses. Some people, however, experience the complication of numbness after piercing their nipples. Unfortunately, this numbness seems to be a permanent condition—most people who experience numbness do not regain sensation.
- Association of Professional Piercers: Body Aftercare
- TeenHealth FX: Harsh Side Effects of Piercing
- TeenHealth FX: Considering Nipple Piercing
- Pregnancy: Breast Tattoos, Nipple Piercings and Breastfeeding
- La Leche League International: Nipple Piercing: Is It Compatible With Breastfeeding?
- The Lancet: Body Piercing: Medical Consequences and Psychological Motivations
Erica Roth has been a writer since 2007. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a college reference librarian for eight years. Roth earned a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from Brandeis University and Master of Library Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her articles appear on various websites.