Using a Heating Pad While Pregnant
Lower back pain, sore muscles, joint aches, abdominal cramps – these are quite common throughout pregnancy and can be managed by applying heat, or a heating pad. However, is it safe to do so? Read on to find out.
How does a heating pad help
A heating pad is a non-invasive, non-addictive way of dealing with aches and pains. When applied to the affected area it dilates the blood vessels, thus raising the blood flow and increasing oxygen supply, which in turn helps lessening pain and spasm .
Is it safe to use electric heating pads during pregnancy
It is okay for pregnant women to use them in the first, second or third trimester  as the heat, in this case, is confined to localized or isolated parts of your body, and does not raise the core body temperature like hot tubs or sauna (which are often not recommended) [1, 2].
Where can you use a heating pad
- Back: To get relief from upper or lower back pain (common in the third trimester) [4, 7], and also for pain caused by the sciatic nerve that may transcend from your back to leg .
- Breasts: To lessen soreness, pain, and swelling .
- Pelvis: To minimize pelvic pain that may arise from the hip, groin or in the area below your buttocks [1, 8].
A heating pad is also safe for other localized areas like legs, ribs, tailbone, hips  and shoulders to get respite from cramps and inflammation.
Is using a heating pad on your stomach safe
It is considered unsafe to use a heating pad on your belly and the entire abdominal area  during pregnancy to relieve issues like gas pains, cramps, uterine contractions, and fibroids. Applying direct heat to the stomach can be harmful to your baby . Instead, try home remedies like a warm bath, or long-term measures like drinking a lot of fluids, and changing your posture .
If you have already used a heating pad on your stomach and are experiencing any discomfort, seek advice from your medical practitioner at once.
Precautionary measures to take to avoid any risks
- Roll the heating pad in a towel or apply it over your dress rather than putting it on your skin directly [1, 2].
- Do not use it for more than 10-15 minutes at a stretch .
- Set the heating to the lowest temperature (if possible) .
- Never fall asleep while applying it .
You can choose microwaveable heating pads stuffed with rice, or aromatic herbs and essential oils to avoid the electrical ones altogether.
Though a heating pad would not be bad for you unless applied for prolonged periods, contact your doctor if there is any discomfort following its use.