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Is It Safe To Use A Heating Pad During Pregnancy?

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The fluctuation of hormones during pregnancy leads to the loosening of ligaments and muscles (1). It may lead to hip and joint pain during pregnancy. Heating pads are commonly used for providing relief during such pains. But can you use a heating pad while pregnant? Women are often advised to refrain from going to the sauna or getting a hot bath during pregnancy because it might increase the overall body temperature and harm the developing fetus. Will heating pads have the same effect?

Read on to know the safety, correct usage, and precautions for using a heating pad during pregnancy.

How Is A Heating Pad Useful?

The constant changes in the body during pregnancy may lead to back pain, fatigue, round ligament pain, abdomi22nal pain, and swollen legs (2). Many women may consider a heating pad for relief from this discomfort. A heating pad may help loosen stiff or cramped muscles or joints and soothe muscle spasms (3). In addition, the localized heat from the heating pad dilates the blood vessels, improving blood circulation, which may also provide relief (4) (5). Electric heating pads even have the provision to adjust the temperature or heat intensity as per personal preference.

Is It Safe To Use A Heating Pad During Pregnancy?

Yes, pregnant women may use a heating pad for muscle aches and joint pains (1). Pregnant women are often advised not to visit saunas or sit in hot tubs during pregnancy as it can increase the core body temperature, which might adversely affect the baby (6). However, using a heating pad now and then to relax those strained muscles or ease the joint pain is acceptable (7). If you experience severe pain, which does not go away even after using a heating pad, consult your doctor immediately.

When To Use A Heating Pad?

You may use heating pads during pregnancy for relief from localized muscle and joint discomfort, such as the ones mentioned below (8).

  • Muscle spasms
  • Cramps
  • Stiffness in the joints
  • Pain in the hips, back, or joints
  • Ligament pain, such as round ligament pain

When To Avoid Heating Pads In Pregnancy?

There are no specific guidelines on when to avoid heating pads in pregnancy. Below are some conditions or scenarios during pregnancy when you may preferably avoid heating pads to be on the safe side.

  • Fever: Do not use a heating pad if you have a fever or high body temperature, such as after exercise or coming indoors after staying under the hot sun. The use of a heating pad may further increase the body temperature, increasing the risk of adverse effects on the fetus.
  • First trimester: You may prefer avoiding heating pads during the first trimester. The baby’s vital organs, such as the brain, heart, and spinal cord, develop during the first trimester (9). Any increase in the maternal body temperature may affect the baby’s development, especially during the first trimester (10).
  • Wounds or damaged skin: Do not place a heating pad on broken skin or wounds. It may affect wound healing and lead to other problems.

How To Use A Heating Pad Safely?

You may observe the following precautions for the safe use of heating pads in pregnancy (11).

  • Choose electric heating pads since they let you regulate the temperature, letting you avoid the risk of burns due to hot water-based heating pads.
  • Set the electric heating pad to its lowest temperature and increase the temperature gradually. It can help you avoid overheating.
  • Use heating pads for 10-20 minutes at a time to minimize any significant increase in the body temperature.
  • Do not fall asleep while using a heating pad.
  • Avoid using a heating pad if you experience sweating or discomfort due to it.
  • Never place the heating pad on your belly or too close to the womb.
  • Check the wires and cords of the electric heating pad periodically to avoid accidental electrical injury and burns.

What Can Be Used Instead Of Heating Pads?

You may consider the following substitutes of heating pads to relax your tense muscles, spasms, and joint pains (12) (13).

  • Regular exercise: Exercising regularly during pregnancy helps in keeping your muscles and joints flexible. Mild exercises, such as walking or stretching, are preferred.
  • Sufficient rest: The physical demands of pregnancy can easily wear out your joints and muscles. Therefore, it is important to give sufficient rest to your body.
  • Massage: Massage could help alleviate muscle stiffness and relax your joints.
  • Healthy diet: Consuming food rich in omega-3, such as fish, nuts, or plant oils, may help ease the stiffness or pain in the joints.
  • Supplements: Herbal supplements may also help alleviate pains or stiffness in the body. Consult your doctor before consuming any supplement.

Back pain, pelvic pain, and muscle pain are the most common problems in women during pregnancy (14). A heating pad may help relieve this discomfort during pregnancy. Remember to give preference to electric heating pads and use them for a few minutes to avoid the risks of any adverse effects on the developing fetus.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Minor Discomforts in Pregnancy and Their Remedies.
    https://www.massgeneral.org/obgyn/patient-resources/pregnancy-and-parenting/minor-discomforts-in-pregnancy-and-their-remedies
  2. Pregnancy Discomforts: Back Pain, Round Ligament Pain, Nausea.
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/5186-pregnancy-having-a-healthy-pregnancy
  3. When to treat pain with ice vs heat.
    https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/when-to-treat-pain-with-ice-vs-heat
  4. Yabo Wang et al.; (2019); Numerical simulation of heat induced flow-mediated dilation of blood vessels.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31466770/
  5. Jerrold Petrofsky et al.; (2013); Moist Heat or Dry Heat for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3808259/
  6. Is it safe to use a sauna or jacuzzi if I\’m pregnant?
    https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/is-it-safe-to-use-a-sauna-or-jacuzzi-if-i-am-pregnant/
  7. Treating Muscle Cramps During Pregnancy.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/treating-muscle-cramps-during-pregnancy/
  8. Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses For Pain.
    https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/ice-packs-vs-warm-compresses-for-pain
  9. Fetal development.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002398.htm
  10. Pregnant Women and Heat Illness.
    https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/heat/pregnantwomen.html
  11. Benefits of Heating Pads.
    https://crw.ecu.edu/2021/02/25/benefits-of-heating-pads/
  12. Treating Joint Pain Naturally During Pregnancy.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/treat-joint-pain-during-pregnancy/
  13. Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
    https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
  14. Back Pain During Pregnancy.
    https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/back-pain-during-pregnancy
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Sanjana Bhattacharjee

Sanjana did her post graduation in Applied Microbiology from Vellore Institute of Technology, India. Her interest in science and health, combined with her passion to write made her convert from a scientist to a writer. She believes her role at MomJunction combines the best of both worlds as she writes health-based content based on scientific evidence. Sanjana is trained in classical... more