Can I Use a Heating Pad While Pregnant?

pregnant person holding back

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Achy muscles and joints are common during pregnancy—after all, you are housing a little human! If you've ever used a heating pad before, you know how beneficial it is for soothing sore spots, and may be wondering if it's OK to use during your pregnancy. Not only do heating pads provide immediate relief, but they can also act as a source of comfort during a physically uncomfortable time.

In a nutshell, the answer is yes. It is generally considered safe to use a heating pad during pregnancy, but there are some necessary precautions you should take. Two OBGYNs weigh in on this topic and delve further into the provisions and benefits.

Using a Heating Pad While Pregnant

Heat therapy is used to treat general back pain, muscle soreness, and joint stiffness. Whether it's in the form of an electric heating pad, a heated gel pack, or a heat wrap, applied heat is known to improve circulation and blood flow to the targeted area and therefore helps repair damaged tissue.

Fortunately, these benefits apply during pregnancy, too. As your baby grows, you may experience added strain on your muscles and ligaments, especially in your back and hips. One example of this is called round ligament pain, a sharp pain in the abdomen or hips, which is common during the second trimester. According to the Cleveland Clinic, applying heat to the area of discomfort can help mitigate pain and soothe symptoms.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about using a heating pad while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

When you find out you're pregnant, you start second-guessing your usual routines and consider whether they could be harmful to your baby. Luckily, if you've been an avid heating pad user, you can continue to do so throughout your pregnancy.

According to Andrea Chisholm, MD, an OBGYN and member of the Verywell Family medical review board, using a heating pad while pregnant is safe for your unborn baby, but there are precautions to take, such as temperature regulation and pad placement.

Benefits of Using a Heating Pad During Pregnancy

The main benefit of using a heating pad while pregnant is alleviating body aches and pains, particularly lower back pain. "Some of the common musculoskeletal aches and pains of pregnancy like low back, hip pain, and sciatica, respond well to applied heat," explains Dr. Chisholm.

According to Tara Shirazian, MD, OBGYN and founder of Mommy Matters, the weight of the developing pregnancy shifts the center of gravity which causes pregnant individuals to use their low back muscles more often to stay upright. "A heating pad is a great way to relieve this low back and neck strain and is safe to use," Dr. Shirazian adds.

Safety Precautions

If you choose to enjoy the advantages of applied heat while you're pregnant, it is advised to take note of the proper precautions. Most importantly, make sure that the heating pad is not too hot as that can cause burns, Dr. Shirazian says.

You also want to ensure you don't use the heating pad for a prolonged period of time, like overnight. Dr. Chisholm explains that people who are pregnant want to avoid raising their core body temperature because it may be harmful to the baby if sustained over time. A pregnant individual should not allow their core body temperature to increase to 102 degrees for more than 20 minutes, adds Dr. Chisholm. Thankfully, she stresses that it's unlikely using a heating pad for a short duration will raise core body temperature, so you can breathe a deep sigh of relief.

It's also advised to avoid placing the heating pad directly on the uterus or abdomen, says Dr. Shirazian. Try placing the pad on your hips, lower back (if you have one that will strap on), and other affected muscles. If you are experiencing abdominal pain, it's best to notify your healthcare provider to make sure all is well.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

Though using a heating pad has been deemed generally safe to use during pregnancy, you may still be looking for some other options to mitigate pregnancy pains.

Exercise

One alternative to consider is exercise. Research shows that regular daily exercise can ease body aches by strengthening the muscles that support the back and legs and by promoting good posture. Try going out for a daily walk or swimming as often as you can. Both walking and swimming are great low-impact workouts that are safe to do while pregnant.

Massage

Prenatal massage can relieve muscle and joint pains that are often brought on by the physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy. Prenatal massage helps reduce swelling by stimulating soft tissue in swollen joints. It can also help with nerve pains, such as sciatic nerve pain, by targeting nearby muscles and reducing tension around inflamed nerves.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture for pain management continues to be a hot topic. If practiced in conjunction with good posture, acupuncture has been shown to successfully reduce back and pelvic pain. In case you're not familiar, acupuncture involves inserting small needles into areas on the body and stimulating specific points. Though more recent research has found acupuncture to be safe during pregnancy, you should still talk to your healthcare provider about whether or not it is the best option for you.

A Word From Verywell

Using a heating pad while pregnant is generally considered safe, as long as the proper precautions are taken. If you love your heating pad or are interesting in trying one, you should absolutely reap all its healing and soothing benefits—think of it as a form of necessary self-care. However, it's always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before trying anything pertaining to your body during pregnancy.

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9 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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