Everyone knows that expectant mothers shouldn’t smoke cigarettes when they’re pregnant. Among other things, mothers who smoke while they’re pregnant increase the risk of health problems for their developing babies—including early birth, low birth weight, and birth defects of the mouth and lip.
Vaping (i.e. using electronic cigarettes) is a fairly new trend for people who enjoy nicotine and its use is generally intended to help cigarette smokers wean themselves off from tobacco. While not harmless, studies have found that vaping is much safer than traditional smoking. However, more and more people are picking up the habit of vaping in and of itself, and this leaves a new generation of smokers wondering: can I vape while pregnant? And what are the health effects that vaping can have on my baby?
In this article, we’ll go over the health risks associated with vaping while pregnant and help you better understand the implications to help you make a sound decision.
Table of Contents
To keep it simple: while using an electronic cigarette might expose a growing fetus to fewer toxins than when compared to traditional cigarette use, nicotine exposure of any kind is harmful to a baby.
The truth is that not many studies have been done in humans to document the effects of the exposure of vaping chemicals on a developing baby, but exposure to nicotine while in utero can expose any baby to the threat of:
- Problems with the placenta
- Problems with blood flow
- Premature delivery
- Low birth weight
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Orofacial clefts for infants
- Ectopic pregnancy
In the following sections, we’ll talk about what vapes are actually made out of as well as touch on some of these health risks a bit more in depth.
What Are Vapes Made Of?
Electronic cigarettes and other vaping products are small devices filled with (often flavored) nicotine liquid that is then heated via an internal battery to create a vapor that is then inhaled.
The nicotine liquids that fuel these devices are typically a mix of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and chemical additives for flavoring—ingredients that have all been associated with health problems such as reduced lung capacity and cardiovascular issues.
Many other of the ingredients present in vaping products haven’t yet been tested for toxicity, meaning there are still a lot of unknown risks involved. Research has found that there is an increased risk of severe lung disease associated with vaping, however.
Vaping While Pregnant
Although it has been found that the aerosol in e-cigarettes has generally fewer harmful chemicals than those found in cigarette smoke, it is still widely accepted by the scientific community that e-cigarettes and other products containing nicotine are not safe to use while pregnant.
As previously stated, nicotine in and of itself is a health danger for both pregnant women and their developing babies, and can damage a developing fetus’ brain and lungs.
Other than nicotine, there are also a host of other toxic chemicals present in e-cigarettes that can get into your bloodstream and run the risk of crossing the placenta, meaning those chemicals are also getting into your baby’s bloodstream.
Some of these include harmful heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead, and also chemicals that are known to cause cancer such as nitrosamines, formaldehyde, and propylene glycol (a chemical used in anti-freeze).
There’s also increasing evidence that vaping—much like smoking cigarettes—during pregnancy may increase the risk of “small for gestational age” (SGA) newborns, meaning babies that are born with a low birth weight.
What About While Breastfeeding?
Vaping may not have a direct effect on your ability to produce breast milk, it will most definitely have an effect on your breast milk itself.
While not enough long-term studies have been done yet to know for sure if vaping while breastfeeding produces any kind of long-term health effects on your baby, what we do know from studies done on regular cigarette smoking while pregnant is that nicotine absorbed by your baby through your breastmilk can affect your baby’s sleeping patterns.
However, the NHS has found that the benefits your baby receives from breastfeeding—like nutrients they cannot get from formula as well as protection from infections—far outweigh the potential consequences of exposure to nicotine, and they encourage mothers to still breastfeed their children even if they can’t quit smoking.
So, if you are going to vape while breastfeeding, experts recommend that you at least make sure you try to vape right after a breastfeeding session your child and try to leave a large gap of time between the last hit you take of your vape and your next scheduled breastfeeding time to ensure there’s the least amount of nicotine possible in your milk supply by then.
It can be difficult to stop smoking, and perhaps no one understands this better than women who are faced with the task of trying to quit while pregnant.
While vaping has often been marketed as a “safer alternative” to smoking cigarettes—and this may be true in some respects—the jury is still out on the longer-term consequences vaping can have on children developing in the womb.
At the end of the day, the safest option for pregnant women—and honestly anyone—is to stop smoking entirely. To that end, there are some options available to you, such as:
- Joining a support program
- Trying nicotine replacement therapy
- Identifying and avoiding your smoking triggers
- Practicing alternative stress-reducing skills
It can take anywhere from a few hours to up to three days for inhaled nicotine to leave your bloodstream, and it can also take time before your nicotine cravings also begin to dissipate. If you’ve been a smoker for a longer time, these cravings can be difficult to ignore.
If you find you’re still having issues controlling your cravings, there are also hotlines you can reach out to for support like 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 877-44U-QUIT.
If you’re looking to talk with someone about quitting vaping, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support any time of day.