Body Piercing: Motivations and Implications for Health.

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Body piercing has evolved from a behavior once considered extreme to an accepted choice among the general population. Earlobe piercing is so common that it is now considered a normative behavior. The motivations for choosing body piercing have changed and are associated with piercing site and number of piercings chosen by the individual. Meanings ascribed to body piercing were traditionally related to enhanced sexual desirability and experience, but now range from the innocuous, such as a fashion statement, to the risk laden, such as nonsuicidal self-injury. Professional piercers are the primary providers of piercing services, and people will first turn to their professional piercer for advice when complications of the site arise, thus delaying entry into needed health care. Health care providers are often perceived as uninformed, dismissive, and biased against individuals, who are pierced particularly those with multiple piercings and piercings in intimate areas of the body. Common complications of piercing include infection, bleeding, and problems relating to tissue trauma and scarring, and are reported by nearly 50% of individuals who are pierced. Metal allergies can develop as a result of piercing, making the type of jewelry used for body adornment an important consideration. Additionally, management of the piercing site becomes critical under certain conditions, such as during pregnancy and birth, lactation, or surgery. This article provides information supporting midwives and other health care providers to offer anticipatory guidance and health care services in a nonjudgmental and supportive manner to individuals choosing body piercing.

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