How To Use Heating Pads During Pregnancy For Body Aches

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What is one of the first things we use when we have a backache? A heating pad. The warmth from the pad is soothing and relaxes the muscles.

But can you use a heating pad during pregnancy when the body aches are commonplace? Pregnant women are advised to avoid prolonged heat exposure in hot tubs and saunas. So, does it apply to heat pads as well?

In this post, MomJunction tells you about using heating pads during pregnancy, their safety, and alternatives to a heating pad.

Is It Safe To Use A Heating Pad During Pregnancy?

You can use a heating pad now and then, and for temporary relief. In fact, a heating pad is usually considered better than pain medications. It helps relieve the pain and discomfort, and also muscle cramps (1).

The heat penetrates deep into the muscle tissue and opens up the blood vessels. It increases the blood flow and brings fresh oxygen and nutrient supply to the muscles, thus reducing joint pains and soreness.

However, if you find heating pad painful or uncomfortable, stop using it.

Why Is A Heating Pad Used?

As said previously, heating pads are a good alternative to over-the-counter pain-relief medications. They help in the following ways:

  • Provide temporary relief to pains
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Reduce or prevent painful muscle spasms
  • Ease sore and stiff muscles

Some women may find relief by using hot and cold pads in turns.

Where Can You Use A Heating Pad?

You can use the heating pad on your back, hips, or joints for temporary relief. But you should avoid it on the belly as it could be harmful to the baby. Check with your doctor if you experience any abdominal pain, fever, spotting, pain while urinating, and lightheadedness after using the heating pad.

However, there is no evidence to prove that using heating pads on the belly or back for short durations could be dangerous.

[ Read: Electric Blanket During Pregnancy ]

How To Use A Heating Pad During Pregnancy?

Heating pads are available in different forms – electric, microwavable and hot water bottles. You may choose any of them or follow your doctor’s advice. Here are some basic guidelines to follow when using a heating pad.

  1. Use it for a short period: Do not use the heating pad for too long, usually not more than 20 minutes. Around 15 to 20 minutes should be enough for getting relief from sore muscles and pains.
  1. Watch the temperature settings: If you are using an electric heating pad, set it at minimum temperature. Do not use a higher setting as it can burn your skin and increase the body temperature too.
  1. Restrict the use to a localized region: Do not use the heat pad on a large area on your body. Use it on one area at a time. The larger the area exposed to the heat, the higher will be the rise in the body temperature.
  1. Use the pad when awake: Turn it off before you go to bed and avoid using it on the bed. You may fall asleep, and the pad could burn your skin or heat your body.
  1. Do not put it directly on the skin: Use the heating pad by wrapping it with a cloth or a towel. It keeps the skin safe and lowers the chances of burning.
  1. Use a heating pad to warm your bed: If you are worried about direct contact with the heating pad, place it under the blanket and keep it on until the bed warms up. Remove it before you go to bed. It gives you a warm feeling and could relieve the aches.
  1. Do not use with any topical creams: Do not use any salve, liniment or ointments along with the pad as they may contain heat-producing agents and could cause skin burns.

By following these tips, you can safely use the heating pads without the risk of an overheat or skin burns. However, the pads are not considered safe under certain circumstances.

When Should You Avoid Heating Pads?

You should avoid using heat when you have an open wound or if the area is numb. Also, avoid it if you have a fever because your body temperature is already high and a heating pad will increase it further.

Safe Alternatives To Heating Pads

If you are not okay with the idea of using heating pads or did not get any relief from them, you could try safer alternatives. Here are a few of them:

  • Cold compresses alleviate pain and discomfort.
  • A gentle massage loosens the tensed muscles and relieves the pain and tension.
  • Maternity support belts help remove the pressure on the back.
  • Deep breathing and other relaxation exercises could help in addressing muscle tension associated with stress.
  • Mild physical exercises such as simple stretches and yoga can prevent muscle stiffness and alleviate pain.
  • Warm baths are highly relaxing and refreshing. They give you relief from pains and aches.

[ Read: Back Pain During Pregnancy ]

Back pain, muscle pain, and other body aches are common when you are pregnant. A heating pad can give you relief if the pain is not severe. However, make sure you are not overheating the area or overusing the pad. Use it with caution to avoid any problems.

Did you use a heating pad during pregnancy? Do share your experience in the comment section below.


1. Common discomforts during pregnancy; UNM Hospitals (2017)


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