Housing baby is tough work, and aches and pains are common during pregnancy as your body grows and changes. When your belly is crampy and bloated and your back feels like it's about to give out, there are few things that feel as glorious as a heating pad. But is it safe to use a heating pad during pregnancy?
The concern with certain heat-based treatments—like using a sauna, Jacuzzi or hot tub—is that raising your core body temperature to above 102 degrees F could potentially lead to birth defects in baby, especially during the first trimester. But here’s the good news: As long as you take some important precautions, it’s okay to use a heating pad on your belly or back while pregnant, since it won’t cause your core temp to spike. “As I tell my patients, you won’t cook the baby,” says Shawna Pochan, CNM, MPH, a nurse-midwife at Massachusetts General Hospital. To keep baby safe, make sure the heating pad is below 100 degrees F and is used on localized areas, like your belly, back, legs or feet, for short periods of time. “I’d suggest using a heating pad during pregnancy for no more than 10 to 15 minutes, and take the normal precautions: Don’t fall asleep with it on and make sure the wiring is safe,” Pochan says.
To be extra-safe, Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, who’s doubled board-certified in ob-gyn and maternal fetal medicine, suggests putting a towel between your belly and the heating pad to prevent the skin from burning. If round ligament pain—that dull, cramp-like pain that you experience as your uterus stretches—is still bothering you, Gaither says Tylenol can help ease the discomfort. And if your back is killing you, a massage could do the trick.
If you feel significant pain in your abdomen or back, especially if your symptoms worsen, skip the heating pad and speak to your doctor to figure out the cause and best course of action.