How Bad Do Belly Button Piercings Hurt?

Way back in 1993, Aerosmith’s video “Cryin” made belly button piercings a must-have. In the video, a rebellious Alicia Silverstone lays back and gets her navel pierced with a smile on her face. 

She makes it look so easy! 

Some of us aren’t as daring (she also kicks a purse thief and jumps off an overpass in the video). 

The first question that comes to our mind is: how bad do belly button piercings hurt? 

We’re going to explore pain levels and go through the procedure itself, so you can be as prepared as possible. We’ll even share a few methods to make it less painful.

What does it feel like when you get your belly button pierced?

When you’re getting your belly button pierced you’ll feel a sharp pinch when the piercer clamps the area in preparation for the actual piercing. Some people report that they didn’t realize they were pierced already since they focused on the sensation of the clamp! 

The needle may give you a hot, burning sensation as it goes through. You’ll then feel some tugging as the jewelry is pulled through the hole and adjusted. 

How do they pierce your belly button?

The piercer will first examine your navel to make sure your anatomy allows for a piercing. Not everyone can get one and these piercings are prone to rejection if they aren’t pierced deep enough. It’s important to go to an experienced professional piercer. 

They’ll evaluate your navel while you’re standing up and mark the area to be pierced to make sure of proper placement. Then, they’ll have you recline on the piercing table. A clamp is applied to stabilize the area. 

The piercer will use a very sharp, hollow needle to slice a hole through the flesh. They will follow it up with the jewelry, which is either a curved barbell or a ring.

How long does your belly button hurt after piercing?

Your belly button may hurt for the entire time it takes to heal – up to 6 to 9 months after getting pierced. This area can be tricky to heal since it’s prone to a lot of movement. Your fresh piercing is a healing wound, so the more you leave it alone, the better and faster it will heal, and the less it will hurt.

Consider getting your belly button pierced at the beginning of winter so that it will have time to heal before you show it off in the summer. This is also a good idea since you don’t want to expose your piercing to a pool or beach when it is fresh. If you are going to be visiting the beach or a pool, you can protect your piercing with a Tegaderm. It’s a sterile, clear plastic film with adhesive on the outer edge to seal off the area. They’re available at the drugstore or online.

Avoid clothing that will rub against it, like tight-fitting shirts, high-waisted pants, or bodysuits. Ideally, you would avoid these types of clothing for the entire healing process. If that’s not possible, at least avoid wearing them in the first month after getting pierced.

If your piercing is infected, it will hurt worse, so it is important to know the difference between normal healing and infection.

Some soreness is to be expected with normal healing.

A healing piercing will now and then leak a fluid which is called lymph. It will be clear to pale yellow. This is a natural symptom of healing and nothing to be concerned about.

If a piercing is infected it will be red, swollen, and hot to the touch. It may leak darker yellow-green pus, which can smell. 

If this is the case, do NOT remove your jewelry. The jewelry must remain in to prevent trapping the infection under the skin. Seek the advice of your piercer and a medical professional, as antibiotics may be needed to fully treat the infection.

How bad is the pain of getting your belly button pierced?

You’re in luck because the pain of getting your belly button pierced is consistently rated as “not that bad”. It’s near to the minimal pain level of getting an ear lobe piercing. Of course, everyone’s pain level is different, but there are a couple of factors that make it a potentially less painful piercing.

First, the tissue is soft, unlike your ear or nose cartilage. It’s easily punctured. Secondly, there aren’t many nerve endings in the area, so you won’t feel as much pain. 

Can you reduce the pain when getting your belly button pierced?

You can reduce the pain of getting your belly button pierced in a few natural ways. You can also use numbing creams, which we don’t advise for a couple of reasons.

First, we’ll discuss the natural methods. 

What you put into your body affects your anxiety and stress levels, so it’s best to avoid alcohol 24 hours before getting a piercing. Avoid coffee and other products with caffeine as well the day of the piercing. 

Bringing a friend for support can be very helpful as well. 

During the procedure, remember to breathe deeply and slowly. You can practice something called “box breathing” to stay focused and centered. The US Navy Seals use it to manage stressful situations. 

You divide your breathing into four steps as if you’re breathing around a box.

Here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Inhale slowly through your nose for four counts. Let your belly and lungs fill with air.

Step 2: Hold your breath for four counts

Step 3: Slowly exhale for four counts

Step 4: Repeat these steps at least three times. Navy Seals will perform this technique for about five minutes to get the full benefit.

Breathing slowly and deeply signals your nervous system to calm down. It will reduce the sensation of pain you experience when you’re relaxed.

While those are natural tips you can try, there’s nothing wrong with using medication or other non “natural” methods. Some people wish to use numbing cream for their belly button piercing. 

We don’t recommend that, though, for a couple of reasons.

First, numbing creams generally aren’t that helpful, since they numb the surface of your flesh and don’t reach deep enough to the area getting pierced. Many people who get pierced with a numbing cream applied beforehand report that they still felt the piercing. 

To properly numb the area, you would have to administer the anesthetic deeper, with a needle. That would defeat the purpose of numbing the area. If you can deal with the pain of a needle, getting pierced is not too much worse! Even if the area was numb, you’d still feel the pressure and tugging of the jewelry.

The second reason is that numbing creams are made with lidocaine and vasoconstrictors. These constrict blood vessels and cause tension in your skin. You don’t want to be pierced while your skin is constricted, since when the cream wears off your skin will relax and your new piercing may end up crooked.

Remember the tips and breathing techniques we shared here, and make sure you get your belly button pierced by a professional piercer. They will put you at ease and make the entire procedure go smoothly and as quickly as possible.

Does it hurt to change your belly button ring?

If you change your belly button ring before it’s done healing, it will hurt and may prolong the healing process. The area is delicate – think about getting a scab on your knee. You wouldn’t pick and pull at it, would you? You have to leave it alone to avoid irritating it. Pulling jewelry out before your belly button piercing is healed will disturb the process and may introduce new bacteria. 

If, however, you wait 6-9 months, until the piercing is fully healed, changing the jewelry does not hurt. It’s easy and quick to do by yourself. You can avoid any complications by choosing high-quality, internally threaded jewelry. The jewelry piece has two parts – one with a screw to attach the bead or top, and the bead itself (or top piece).

You want the jewelry where the “screw” part is hidden inside the jewelry, instead of being on the outside. Externally threaded jewelry has the screw part exposed. The threads can be sharp, causing friction and micro-tears to the inside of your piercing. Choosing the right jewelry will ensure changing your belly button ring will be the smoothest, pain-free experience!