Is using a heating pad safe during pregnancy. Using heat can be a simple way to resolve pregnancy-related aches and pains in your hips, back, and joints. But, should you avoid it so that it doesn’t raise a woman’s body temperature? Come let this L&D nurse tell you!
This is part of my Labor Pain Management series — and the great thing about heating pads is you can use them during your pregnancy, as long as you follow some guidelines…
Heating Pad While Pregnant
Pregnancy certainly has a lot of aches and pains associated with it. CAN you use a heating pad while you’re pregnant and what can it help?
How Does Heat Help Normally?
Heat treatments allows tight muscles to relax. It is a side-effect-free (normally) way to ease those aches and pains and help your body re-align itself.
While it doesn’t always take the pain away entirely, it does help to “take the edge off”.
How do I know about heating pads while pregnant?
Hi, I’m Hilary — I’ve been an L&D RN since 2001 and I have answered thousands of questions about comfort during pregnancy.
I’d love to follow you along during your pregnancy, giving some helpful advice is you progress:
As always, please take the advice of your provider over my advice, as they know more about you and your individual circumstances.
What type of heating pad to use while pregnant?
You are in a bit more control of the temperature vs an electronic one, and it cools with time, which makes it a bit safer.
Keep in mind, also that appropriately used heating treatments can often be safer than medication, and a very simple solution to a pain many pregnant women have — just be sure to know where you’re using it with your provider’s OK.
And yes, there have been studies that raising the heat of the baby can cause neural tube defects, which is why they don’t recommend very hot baths, hot tubs or saunas during pregnancy.
However, heat applied to one part of your body (especially when not directly near your baby — on your abdominals) won’t raise your whole body temperature to unsafe levels.
ACOG which is the OB’s professional practice organization recommends heat for back pain, but says you should limit the time heat is placed (which is why I prefer the microwaveable vs electric ones).
Can you use a heating pad on your belly when pregnant?
I don’t recommend using a heating pad over your belly while you are pregnant.
We’ll talk a bit more where about where you CAN use it on your belly, but draping it over your belly isn’t a great option for a few reasons:
- If you’re really cramping like you need a heating pad and you’re before 36 weeks, you should talk to your doctor
- It will heat up the baby as they really aren’t far from the surface and don’t have too much protection between them and the heating pad
If you want to use a heating pad on your belly, I would certainly talk to your doctor/provider before doing so.
Where can you use a heating pad during pregnancy?
I am a big fan of using it (and by it, I mean a microwaveable one vs an electric one) a few places:
- In your ligament area (that’s more in “corners” of your belly vs. directly on top of your belly — you can read more about ligament pain in this post on normal pregnancy symptoms)
- Back pain, you can lay on the heating pad (or use it behind you in a chair)
- Sometimes leg cramps can be really annoying, and heating pads can help relax those muscles (although being mindful of your hydration as well as vitamin intake can e important in those as well — talk to your provider!)
Keep in mind that the vast majority of pregnant women do experience back pain during pregnancy, so you aren’t alone in trying something to help!
How can a heating pad help during pregnancy?
You’re using the heat to help relax tense muscles.
Using a heating pad for ligament pain in pregnancy
- Use light heat — you don’t want to use your microwaveable pad as hot as it gets
- Tuck it into the corner that hurts — as little as possible should be touching your belly
- Do NOT use a heating pad — use a microwaveable one — as it gets less hot with time, and is easier to “tuck” into spots
The graphic above shows where your ligaments are that usually hurt (they’re actually called your “round ligaments” — and they hold your uterus onto your body, and they are stretched a LOT as your uterus grow. They can also hurt more:
- When you stand quickly
- When you lay down quickly
- Cough or sneeze
One thing that can help ligament pain is making sure your belly is supported when you sleep on your side (use a pillow underneath it). I talk more about ligament pain in my normal in pregnancy post.
Make a pregnancy heat pack
- Get a dishtowel (buy one, or use an old one)
- Sew up the majority of the sides, leaving an opening to add the beans/wheat/rice — which you add now.
- You can also add essential oils if you like those smells and they relax you
- Then sew up that hole.
Start with 1 minute in the microwave to see how warm it gets, then add 30-second increments to see how long your pack will tolerate.
You want it warm, but not too warm so that the towel/rice burns (done that!) or is too hot for you to pick up and handle.
Heating Pad During Labor
Some women find heat comforting during labor. Remember:
- Still don’t use it draped across your belly
- Don’t use it for extended time periods
- Consider a hot water bottle too if a microwave isn’t convenient.
Common Questions About Heating Pads During Pregnancy
Can you use a heating pad during your first trimester?
Again, I would not use it across your belly, but ligaments can ache as your uterus grows. You can also use it on your back.
However, if you’ve already done it — keep in mind in early pregnancy you have a thick uterine wall, as well as muscles and fat to cushion your baby against any heat. While I wouldn’t do it, if you’ve already done it it isn’t too concerning.
Can you use a heating pad during your third trimester?
Your baby REALLY doesn’t have much protection from a warm pack across your belly at this point — so be sure NOT to use it across your belly as it will heat your baby and stress them out. But I recommend it frequently for back or ligament pain when placed appropriately.
Can you fall asleep with a heating pad while pregnant?
I never recommend falling asleep with a heating pad during any point of your life, unless it is microwaveable (one of the big perks to using a microwaveable one — as it cools with time). It can just over-heat your body and can be problematic (including fires).
Heating pad for pregnancy back pain
It can be AWESOME for that. I would be more willing to use an electric one on my back vs near my belly but I would still be cautious (and don’t fall asleep on it). I would limit it to under 20 minutes at a time.
Other things to consider for pain during pregnancy
A lot of the aches and pains you experience during pregnancy are totally normal, but I would certainly discuss them with your provider to make sure you’re still good to go.
Other things you can do (under the care of your provider)
- Prenatal Yoga (there are some poses you shouldn’t do while pregnant, so be thoughtful of that)
- Mild stretching
- Pregnancy support bands (like this)
- Pain medication (like Tylenol) — there are options depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy
- Using a body pillow to support you during pregnancy sleep — like this
I am a big believer in giving your baby the most neutral environment to grow during your pregnancy, so the less you can use medications and even heat, the better. Before you know it, your body will be back to being your own and you’ll be able to do what you please — but during those nine months, be thoughtful of what you can tolerate.
If you liked this post, I bet you have other pregnancy questions that can be answered by Hilary here.
Be sure to sign up for my pregnancy series: