Unfortunately for a lot of women, being pregnant — especially in the early stages — feels a lot like PMS or being on your period, minus the bleeding of course. There’s the mood swings, the fatigue, the nausea, and a lot of cramps and aches. Since there are a lot of medications on the do-not-take list, many women look for a natural alternative to help ease those pains, like a trusty heating pad. But can you use a heating pad while pregnant? If you have to skip out on hot tubs, are heating pads a no-no, too?
According to Dr. Sherry Ross, an OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, using a heating pad — or a water bottle — is just fine. “This old fashioned yet effective home remedy allows the warm water to soothe and relax the muscles of the uterus and may improve blood flow to the effective area. The protective coating of the water bottle prevents burning of the skin and any harm that could affect the baby.” And the protective coating around an electric heating pad should provide the same protection.
Nurse-midwife Shawna Pochan noted in an article for The Bump not to worry about “cooking the baby,” as long as the heating pad is below 100 degrees Fahrenheit and you only use it for 10 to 15-minute increments. Additionally, since the heat is localized to one area of the body, your temperature won’t go dangerously high like it could in a hot tub. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), pregnant ladies, especially in the first trimester, should not let their core body temperatures rise above 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, it could lead to miscarriage.
If you’re worried, you can always wrap a towel around your heating pad, too. If you’re still freaked, Ross recommends some other remedies to help with pregnancy cramping and similar aches a heating pad can relieve. “Rest and hydration are also effective at relieving mild cramps associated with pregnancy. Drinking water, warm or hot, helps relax the uterine muscles.” So it looks like it’s time to turn on that kettle for some warm tea.
What's the deal with those cramps anyway? Aren’t your days of period cramps supposed to be over for the next nine months? Ross says it’s completely normal and quite common. “Cramping is more noticeable in the lower abdomen since the uterus expands, further stretching the ligaments and muscles located in this area,” she says. The APA noted that cramping may be more noticeable when you cough or sneeze since your uterus is stretching and pulling. In the early stages of pregnancy, that cramping you’re feeling could be the embryo implanting into your uterus. The APA added that additional causes of cramping include gas and bloating and sex.
But Ross notes that if you’re having diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, a fast heartbeat, “worsening pain,” or vaginal bleeding, you should definitely call your healthcare provider. In addition, the APA noted that cramping with shoulder or neck pain (ectopic pregnancy) warrants a call, as well as pain when you urinate, which could be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Pregnancy cramps and aches suck, but they come with the territory. Thankfully, applying a heating pad or a hot water bottle is perfectly safe to help ease those pains. You can even take a warm bath as long as it’s not in a hot tub and you keep your body temperature below 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Good luck.
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