Can Pregnant Women Use Heating Pads? Is It Safe or Bad for Baby?

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Written by Shandra Williams

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If you’re an expectant mom, pregnancy-related muscle cramps, aches, and body pains are pretty much par for the course no matter how physically fit and in shape you are.

Since you can’t simply go pop a pain reliever while you’re pregnant, you have to find more creative ways to help soothe your aching body. What about using a heating pad; are any of them safe for pregnant women to use?

Pregnant women can use heating pads while pregnant as long as they are careful and don’t apply the heating pads directly to their stomachs or abdomens. There are other safety considerations also, such as using the pad on a low setting and not using it for extended periods.

This article will further explore the use of heating pads while pregnant, including what’s safe and what’s not. It will also outline the parts of the body where you can use one and whether or not it’s okay to fall asleep on a heating pad while pregnant. Keep reading to find out more. 

Is It Safe to Use a Heating Pad When Pregnant?

As long as you take proper precautions, it’s safe to use a heating pad during pregnancy. Most doctors and other professionals actually recommend that you do so, though there’s disagreement over whether you should use them on your stomach or abdomen.

electric heating pad

There are several types of heating pads people use for their aches and body pains: 

  • Electric
  • Microwavable
  • Chemical pads
  • Infrared
  • Electric blankets*

*Electric blankets aren’t technically heating pads, but some people use them in a pinch when they don’t have another alternative. 

Of those five primary types, pregnant women should stick to the electric and microwavable ones. Chemical pads often include ingredients that aren’t safe for pregnant women, and infrared penetrates deeply beneath the skin. 

That sounds like precisely what you’d want out of your heating pad, but although it’s excellent for pain relief, it isn’t ideal for your developing baby. 

Additionally, most professionals urge women to stay away from electric blankets while they’re pregnant, as exposure to electric blankets – especially in the first trimester – has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage (sources: Epidemiology & Medical News Today). 

However, electric and microwavable heating pads are largely safe for pregnant women as long as they aren’t misused. 

For example, you should always use an electric pad set on the lowest setting. 

One of the most significant risks of using any kind of heating pad or device is the possibility that it’ll raise your core body temperature. That can be very dangerous for your developing fetus. However, keeping the pad set at the lowest setting and only using it for 20 minutes or less should ensure that this doesn’t happen. 

In some ways, microwavable pads are even safer. 

Microwavable pads are usually cloth pads or bags filled with grains, clay beads, rice, corn, or other (typically natural) fillings (source: Chicago Tribune). I once had one filled with cherry pits! 

I say they’re safer in some ways because, unlike electric pads, they don’t get hotter the longer you use them. 

A microwavable pad is at its hottest immediately after you pull it from the microwave. After that, it starts losing heat immediately (though slowly enough that you shouldn’t have to nuke it again for at least 15 minutes or so). 

If it’s too hot, you can simply let it cool down before using it, and you don’t have to worry about using it for too long because it will naturally cool itself down after about 15 or 20 minutes. 

Additionally, it’s best if you wrap your heating pads – especially electric pads – in a towel or use a heat pad cover instead of applying them directly to your skin. Doing so keeps the pad from burning or irritating your skin via direct contact, and it also makes it less likely that you’ll be exposed to too much direct heat. 

woman applying heating pad on her neck

Can I Use a Heating Pad on My Back During Pregnancy?

It’s safe to use a heating pad on your back, as long as you use it on the lowest setting and don’t use it for more than 20 minutes at once, with lengthy breaks in between uses. It’s also best to wrap it in a towel or a heating pad cover. You shouldn’t use infrared pads, though.

Can Pregnant Women Use Heating Pads on Their Stomach?

You shouldn’t use a heating pad directly on your stomach if you’re pregnant. Most doctors and professionals advise against this, though some claim it’s okay. The better alternative is to use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel and placed gently against your stomach or pubis area.

Some doctors will give the okay for using a pad on your stomach as long as you keep the setting low. However, many others are adamantly opposed to this practice (source: Healthline). 

Whenever two doctors disagree on something, I tend to err on the side of caution and avoid it. 

However, you can use a hot water bottle against your abdomen to help relieve muscle cramps. Amazon has some wonderful options, such as the Qomfor Hot Water Bottle, which is inexpensive and comes with a soft cloth cover that you can use to keep from placing the bottle directly against your skin. 

Just remember not to get the water in the bottle too hot. The general rule of thumb is that if it’s too hot to give to a baby, it’s too hot for you to use. Stick to warm water only. 

Other Areas of the Body for Heating Pad Use During Pregnancy

You can safely use heating pads on other parts of your body while pregnant, including any of the following: 

  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Shoulders
  • Neck
  • Upper back
  • Calves
  • Hips

However, no matter where you use the heating pad, make sure you follow the safety rules above (no direct contact with skin, no longer than 20 minutes, and lowest setting only). 

I’m Pregnant and Fell Asleep Using a Heating Pad: Should I Worry?

Try not to worry yourself sick if you fell asleep on a heating pad while pregnant. While doctors strongly advise against this practice – and you should absolutely avoid doing it if possible – worrying yourself to death about it after the fact won’t do you or your baby any good. 

If you’re concerned, contact your doctor for a follow-up appointment. And be sure you take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. 

For example, only use a heating pad if someone is around to help keep you awake and keep track of the time. Additionally, you can set a loud alarm on your phone to go off every five or ten minutes while using your pad so that even if you fall asleep, you’ll wake back up long before any harm could come to your baby. 

Hopefully, this article has given you some useful information about what types of heating pads to use while you’re pregnant and how to use them safely. As always, if you still have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call your doctor and ask!