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While traditional blankets keep you warm by trapping your body heat within it, electric blankets use electricity to heat up a thin, insulated copper wire inside the blanket to warm it up before you even get into bed! If, on a cold wintery evening, you have heard the phone ringing in the other room and dreaded the idea of having to let go the blanket, get cold, and then come back to bed, only to have to wait again, for warmth to build up, then you know exactly why the ‘electric blanket’ was invented! But if you are pregnant, you will wonder if it is safe to use during pregnancy.
What Makes an Electric Blanket Unsafe for Pregnant Women?
Where there is electricity, there are electromagnetic fields. The adverse effects on the human body, from exposure to this invisible field, are still being studied. The presence of an electromagnetic field is one of the reasons why mobiles are considered dangerous to keep in your pockets on a long-term basis. The same is the case with an electric blanket. It is believed that the overheating of the blanket could affect the baby.
Risks Associated with Using an Electric Blanket While Pregnant
Following are the risks associated with using an electric blanket during pregnancy:
- Studies on the effects of low-frequency electromagnetic fields on the human body show that short-term exposure does not cause any adverse reactions in people. Studies on long-term exposure do not always concur. (Exposure to high-frequency EMF is universally agreed upon to have a negative impact on health) However, when dealing with a pregnancy, one’s choices affect their child as well, so why take a risk?
- The higher the settings on an electric blanket, the stronger the EMF it produces. The difference in the strength of the field on low settings to high settings can be up to three-fold! This compounds the risk of a miscarriage.
- Using an electric blanket on high settings could cause a miscarriage. This risk is highest during the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
- Using an electric blanket on high settings frequently over the course of the pregnancy is linked to low weight in babies at birth.
- Overheating increases the risks associated with the use of electric blankets. High heat could disrupt the development of neural tube in the foetus during the early stages (first trimester). This could result in serious conditions such as spina bifida.
- Overheating could also make one sweat while they sleep, leading to dehydration.
Precautionary Tips for Using an Electric Blanket in Pregnancy
If using an electric blanket, it is recommended that you take these precautions (as they may apply):
- Use a low voltage electric blanket.
- Use a temperature regulating electronic blanket, as they automatically maintain a steady temperature and won’t overheat.
- If the weather is not severely cold, it is better to turn off the power after the blanket heats up. Since the blanket will trap your body heat anyway, it will not go cold later on.
- There has been no indication of adverse biological effects in individuals who used an electric blanket at low settings throughout their pregnancy.
- Risks in foetal development due to overheating are much lower after the first seven weeks of pregnancy. So, avoiding electric blankets during this time is advised.
- Avoid using an electric blanket towards the last weeks of your pregnancy. In the event of your water breaking, the blanket will get soaked, causing a short-circuit and the possibility of fire.
Alternatives to Electric Blankets
Can you use an electric blanket while pregnant? Sure, you can! All the risks associated with using electric blankets occur during the first two and last months of your pregnancy, and for the most part, when the blanket is in high settings. But, why take a risk? There are always alternatives you might consider:
- Traditionally, before the invention of electric blankets, a hot water bottle was brought to bed, to heat up the inside of the blanket. So, go traditional.
- The modern-day alternative to the hot water bottle is the heating pad. These are long, soft, and pliable allowing you to wrap them around your neck or body. All you need to do is microwave it to heat it up, and you are ready to go!
- Layering up is another way to go! Put on a warming nightcap, socks, and thermal inner wear, and add layers to your outerwear to keep yourself warm and cosy.
- Electro-magnetic fields quickly fade in strength as you move away from the source. A ten-centimetre distance could slash its strength by 90%. So, a good way to combat the effects of the EMF would be to use a thick duvet between you and the electric blanket.
Other than these alternatives and precautions, manufacturers of electric blankets have taken concern on the effects of EMF and have developed blankets with very low to no magnetic field. Such advancement may well pave the way for universally safe electric blankets!
Also Read: Hot Water Bath During Pregnancy