Making a decision about whether or not to vape while pregnant is a personal choice, but one that deserves careful consideration.
A lot of questions remain about the safety of e-cigarettes in general. Let alone for pregnant women who are using them to quit smoking or to help with nicotine cravings during pregnancy.
So is there anything to worry about? Should you vape whilst pregnant?
We’ve compiled some of the most pressing questions about vaping while pregnant. Including its effects on breastfeeding and fertility, as well as some safer alternatives out there.
First up: The Facts
Vaping is very fast becoming the go-to method for giving up smoking, with statistics showing that it is more effective than other methods. In 2020, 27.2% of people used a vaping product in a quit attempt in the previous 12 months. This compares with 15.5% who used NRT over the counter or on prescription (2.7%) and 4.4% who used varenicline.
The main difference between vaping and smoking is that vaping does not involve burning tobacco. Which means there is no smoke involved in the process. Instead, e-cigarettes use a battery-powered heating element to vaporise a liquid solution called e-juice into an aerosol that can be inhaled by the user.
So is vaping safe during pregnancy? It’s a question that many expectant women have been asking themselves. After all, e-cigarettes are marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. But what’s the real story?
Are E-Cigarettes Safe During Pregnancy?
While e-cigarettes can be a useful tool for quitting smoking, there’s a lot of evidence that using them during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby.
Nicotine is the main ingredient in e-cigarettes that makes them so dangerous. Nicotine is an addictive chemical that is highly toxic to humans. Whilst vaping nicotine can cross the placenta and enter your baby’s bloodstream, lead to numerous potentially life threatening complications.
First and foremost, nicotine can increase your risk of complications early on in pregnancy, such as miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies.
It can also lead to growth and development issues resulting in low birth weight, and an increased risk of premature delivery and long-term health problems in babies.
Additionally, it contributes to a higher risk of birth defects (including orofacial clefts and decreased lung and brain development). As well as risks after birth including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and asthma
As nicotine also affects the developing brain it can also cause learning disabilities and developmental delays in children. Babies who are exposed to it during pregnancy may have a higher risk of developing ADD/ADHD, ADHD-like behaviour, as well as other behavioural issues.
Women who smoke or use other forms of tobacco during pregnancy can also have an increased risk for having placenta previa (when the placenta covers part or all of the cervix), placental abruption (when the placenta separates from the uterus before delivery), preterm labour/delivery, pre-eclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure), gestational diabetes, and stillbirth.
The effects of nicotine will depend on how much you smoke. E-cigarettes can come with varying amounts of nicotine, which means that users can choose how much they want to ingest. The amount of nicotine in an e-cigarette depends on its strength and the type of cartridge used.
However, it is possible to find e-cigarettes with no nicotine at all. So would this be a good option for pregnant women? Let’s take a look.
Is It Safe To Vape Without Nicotine During Pregnancy?
Unfortunately, there is still no good news to report.
Although the absence of nicotine in e-cigarettes and other vaping products may lower the risk of harm to an unborn baby, there are still other harmful chemicals present. These include traces of carcinogenic nitrosamines, small amounts of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, both of which are carcinogenic to humans, and toxic metals such as cadmium, nickel and lead.
The effects of vaping chemicals on a foetus have not yet been studied thoroughly enough to determine the danger they pose. However, the FDA states that “No youth or pregnant women should be using ANY vaping product, regardless of the substance.”
Given this recommendation, it is probably safer for women to opt for different methods of satisfying their craving while pregnant, and we’ll get to those soon!
Is it better to vape OR smoke when pregnant?
As it turns out, vaping may actually be the lesser of two evils.
For starters, E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, toxins in cigarette smoke particularly harmful to developing babies.
Although harmful chemicals are present, they are at much lower levels, making the product a safer choice. In fact, vaping has been shown to be as much as 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes!
According to NHS: “If using an e-cigarette helps you to stop smoking, it is much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke.”
Although both smoking and vaping are considered unsafe during pregnancy, vaping is probably the safest bet.
That said, the lack of information about the effects of e-cigarette use on unborn babies makes it difficult for healthcare providers to recommend them as an alternative method for quitting smoking during pregnancy.
If you are unable to go cold turkey, you’ll most likely be provided the option of Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Unlike e-cigarettes, this option is available on NHS prescription.
What Is Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)?
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a form of medical treatment that helps people stop smoking by replacing some of the nicotine they’d get from smoking cigarettes. It’s available in a variety of forms, including gum, patches, lozenges, nasal sprays and inhalers.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is widely considered to be the preferred option for pregnant women who are trying to quit smoking.
When using NRT, pregnant women can reduce their nicotine intake and still get the physical and emotional benefits of smoking without exposing themselves or their unborn child to the harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes.
Can Electronic Cigarettes Be Used Around The Baby After It Is Born
You may have used electronic cigarettes during pregnancy, or you might have decided to go without them. Either way, you may be wondering if it’s safe to use them now that your baby is here. The answer is: Yes, probably!
There is currently no evidence of harm to bystanders from exposure to electronic cigarette vapour and any risks are likely to be extremely low.
However, like all things to do with vaping, there is not enough research yet to provide a definitive answer.
This is good news for new mothers who are fans of vaping, but does the same apply if they are breastfeeding too? Let’s see.
Is It Safe To Vape While Breastfeeding?
Vaping while breastfeeding can cause nicotine to pass into your breast milk, so it’s best not to do it.
Nicotine could have a negative impact on your baby, including disrupting their sleep patterns and possibly decreasing your milk supply.
So, vaping is not a good idea for pregnant or breastfeeding women, but what about pre-pregnancy? Does vaping affect fertility?
Does Vaping Affect Fertility?
When you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s easy to worry about all the things that could go wrong. But if you’re a smoker or vaper, it’s a good idea to keep one more thing on your radar: your nicotine habit.
It doesn’t matter whether you smoke cigarettes or vape e-cigarettes—either way, nicotine can affect fertility. And research is mounting that shows that vaping, specifically, can have a negative impact on your chances of a successful pregnancy.
The Final Verdict
To answer the question, “Can I vape while pregnant?”
Well, it’s definitely not recommended.
In general, vaping is better than smoking cigarettes. It’s safer for your body and your baby, and it might even help you quit smoking altogether. The problem is that there hasn’t been enough research done on the long-term effects of vaping during pregnancy. Not yet, anyway.
So while it’s likely still better than smoking cigarettes, if you have any concerns about the safety of vaping during pregnancy or breastfeeding, it’s probably best to avoid it until more research has been done.
If you have read this far, I hope it’s been helpful. And wherever your journey takes you, good luck!