Can you use a heating pad while pregnant?

Here's The Deal With Using Your Trusty Heating Pad During Pregnancy

Keep these safety tips in mind.

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For a lot of people, being pregnant — especially in the early stages — feels similar to PMS or being on your period, minus the bleeding. There’s the mood swings, the fatigue, the nausea, and a lot of cramps and aches. Since there are plenty of medications on the do-not-take list, many look for a natural alternative to help ease those pains, such as 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?

After all, research has shown that sitting in the high heat of hot tubs during early pregnancy can impact the baby’s health. A 2011 study in Birth Defects Research found that the babies of pregnant people who use hot tubs more than once during early pregnancy and for long periods of time have an increased risk of certain birth defects. Heating pads, however, have not been shown to do the same as long as they are used safely. In fact, a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that combined treatments including heating pads, aerobic exercise, and chiropractic care were helpful for low back and pelvic pain relief in pregnant people.

While using a heating pad while pregnant can definitely provide much-needed relief to your cramps, aches, and pains, there are some things you should know about how to use one safely.

Reasons To Use A Heating Pad While Pregnant

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Using a heating pad — or a hot water bottle — during pregnancy is just fine as long as you’re using it safely (see below). “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,” Dr. Sherry Ross, M.D., OB/GYN, women’s health expert, and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health, tells Romper.


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. In the early stages of pregnancy, that cramping you’re feeling could be the embryo implanting into your uterus. Additional causes of cramping might include gas, bloating, and pregnancy sex.

Back Pain

Cramping isn’t the only thing that might steer you toward using a heating pad while pregnant. The “most common reason for heating pad use during pregnancy is for back pain,” Dr. Kecia Gaither, M.D., double board-certified OB/GYN, maternal fetal medicine specialist, and director of perinatal services at NYC Health and Hospitals in the Bronx, tells Romper. “Other uses include joint pain [or] sore muscles.”

Will It Affect The Baby?

It only makes sense you won’t just be thinking about your safety while using a heating pad, but also your baby’s. After all, when you increase your body temperature, you’re also heating theirs. Fortunately, if you use a heating pad at the right temperature and for a safe amount of time, you should be in good shape.

“The protective coating of the water bottle prevents burning of the skin and any harm that could affect the baby,” Ross says. And the protective coating around an electric heating pad should provide the same protection.

How To Use A Heating Pad Safely

As for the safety of you and the baby, Gaither tells Romper that the heating pad should generally be used below 100 degrees Fahrenheit and only for short increments of 10 minutes or less. “It’s safe to use heating pads as long as it’s not for an extended period of time [and doesn’t] raise the core body temperature,” Gaither says. 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.

This is especially important during early pregnancy: It’s “generally advised not to use [heating pads] on the abdomen for a prolonged period of time during the first trimester,” Gaither adds, as it could potentially risk miscarriage or birth abnormalities.

If you’re concerned, you can always wrap a towel around your heating pad while you use it. Or, Ross recommends some other remedies to help with pregnancy cramping and similar aches. “Rest and hydration are also effective at relieving mild cramps associated with pregnancy,” she says. “Drinking water, warm or hot, helps relax the uterine muscles.” Looks like it’s time to turn on that kettle for some warm tea!

When To Stop Using A Heating Pad

Ross notes that if you’re having diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, a fast heartbeat, “worsening pain,” or vaginal bleeding, you should definitely stop using the heating pad and call your healthcare provider. In addition, cramping with shoulder or neck pain warrants a call — potentially a sign of ectopic pregnancy — as well as pain when you urinate, which could be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Pregnancy cramps and aches are the worst, but they typically come with the territory. Thankfully, applying a heating pad or hot water bottle is a helpful way to ease those pains — as long as you keep in mind how to use it safely. Pair it with a cup of warm tea to bring on the full soothing effect.

Studies referenced:

Duong, H. T., Shahrukh Hashmi, S., Ramadhani, T., Canfield, M. A., Scheuerle, A., Kim Waller, D., & National Birth Defects Prevention Study (2011). Maternal use of hot tub and major structural birth defects. Birth defects research. Part A, Clinical and molecular teratology, 91(9), 836–841.

George, J. W., Skaggs, C. D., Thompson, P. A., Nelson, D. M., Gavard, J. A., & Gross, G. A. (2013). A randomized controlled trial comparing a multimodal intervention and standard obstetrics care for low back and pelvic pain in pregnancy. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 208(4), 295.e1–295.e2957.


Dr. Sherry Ross, OB/GYN, women’s health expert, and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health

Dr. Kecia Gaither, double board-certified in OB/GYN and maternal fetal medicine and director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health and Hospitals in the Bronx

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