Is It Safe To Vape While Pregnant?

Smoking an electronic cigarette may not feel exactly the same as smoking an actual cigarette, but the substances you’re taking in are still reaching your lungs. If you vape while pregnant, it may seem safer than smoking cigarettes, but some scientific research studies have shown that certain birth defects may occur from using e-cigarettes.1

About Electronic Cigarettes

E-cigarettes, also called e-vaporizers, are battery-operated delivery systems that are used to inhale a liquid aerosol. The ingredients in these liquids usually contain nicotine, but a few of them omit the nicotine. The e-liquid or e-juice also comes in various flavors and contain other chemicals, some of which are toxic.

Most vape pens resemble a cigarette in shape, though some are as small as a USB stick and others look more like a cigar. They consist of a cartridge to hold the liquid substance (e-liquid), a heating element to produce an aerosol, a battery to power the pen and a mouthpiece used for inhaling.

Many of these devices work when a person takes a puff, which activates the heating element to create vapor. The person then inhales the vapor, much like you would inhale tobacco smoke from a cigarette.

Some Facts About Vaping

Some people who are addicted to smoking nicotine cigarettes might decide to try e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking. They may also want to switch to vaping because it seems to be safer than traditional cigarette smoking. The following information is important to know, especially if you want to vape while pregnant to avoid smoking:

The nicotine that is heated to make the aerosol in e-cigarettes is extracted from tobacco. Other chemicals are included in the e-liquid, though they tend to be less toxic than the chemicals found in traditional cigarettes.

Nicotine is usually the main ingredient in e-liquids, and nicotine is a very addictive substance, aside from being a toxic substance. Vaping is just as addictive as traditional cigarette smoking, sometimes even more addictive. This is because extra-strength cartidges with higher concentrations of nicotine are sold. It’s also possibel to amp up the e-cigarette’s voltage to ensure more vapor is inhaled with each puff. 2

Even though a lot of people begin vaping in order to quit smoking cigarettes, it’s not a good smoking cessation device to use. Many people find that they don’t stop smoking cigarettes and have now added vaping to their repertoire of smoking activities. If you vape while pregnant, you’re still ingesting chemicals.

Teenagers of high school age tend to choose vape products over regular tobacco when they first begin smoking. What attracts them is the perceived safety of vaping and some of the flavorings that are available, such as fruits and sweets. They also feel less stigma attached to vaping, because there’s no conventional cigarette smell.

Just as breathing in secondhand smoke from traditional cigarettes has the potential to be harmful to those who are in close contact with a smoker, vaping can be dangerous in the same way. You don’t even have to actually vape while pregnant to be exposed to the consequences of breathing in nicotine vapors when others around you are engaging in this activity.

What E-Liquids Can Contain

Aside from nicotine, the e-juices that are used in vaping cartridges contain other chemicals and preservatives. Most have propylene glycol, a chemical which can cause eye and lung irritation. Also, when e-liquids are heated at high temperatures, carbonyls can be formed, which are potentially toxic.

The carbonyls in vaping liquids found by scientists include: 3

Formaldehyde: This irritant is know to cause a loss of red blood cells and in large amounts causes burns, abnormalities in heart theme, irregular breathing and coma. 

Acetaldehyde: The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the US National Institutes of Health both warn of the risk of cancer associated with this chemical. There is also some evidence that is can cause reduction in coordination and memory impairment, but findings are still inconclusive.

Acetone: Large amounts of acetone have been know to cause headache, slurred speech, lack of coordination, low blood pressure and coma. 

Butanol: Symptoms of butanol poisoning include headache, vomiting, abdominal pain, low blood pressure, trouble breathing and coma. 

Depending upon whether the e-liquid is propylene glycol-based can mean you’re taking in higher levels of carbonyl, including formaldehyde, which is a carcinogenic substance.

As fetus development occurs, even small amounts of substances impact the growing infant in large ways. Although the symptoms mentioned above are mostly the result of large amount of the chemicals, any amount during pregnancy could have the potential to have an effect on the baby. 

Birth Defects From Nicotine

It’s been scientifically proven and is understood that smoking tobacco causes plenty of health issues, from lung and mouth cancer to heart disease. It’s also a fact that smoking during pregnancy may lead to premature birth, lower infant birth weights, birth defects and even infant death. 4

These facts lead many women who are addicted to nicotine to either quit smoking or seek out an alternative, such as vaping while pregnant, instead of smoking cigarettes.

The problems associated with smoking are still an issue with vaping, since you are still ingesting nicotine, which increases the risk of:

Ectopic Pregnancy: Ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg grows in the wrong place. This always ends in pregnancy loss. 

Miscarriage:  Miscarriage is any loss of an embryo or fetus. Miscarriages can happen for many reasons, but are more likely to happen if you smoke.

Placental Abruption: This occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus before childbirth. This serious complication may require bed rest, or an early c-section.

Premature Delivery: Premature delivery is more likely to happen in women who smoke or abuse substances.

Stillbirth: This is when a baby dies after at least 20 weeks of development.

Neonatal Intensive Care Due to Low Birth Weight: Low birth weight might not sound like a big deal, but it is closely related to mortality risk as well as the risk of developmental problems.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): This condition is when a seemingly healthy infant dies in their sleep. Cause remain mostly unknown, however risk factors such as living with smokers, sleeping in a parents bed or with other items in their crib all increase the risk of SIDS.

Birth Defects: Birth Defects related to smokeing and vaping can vary, including orofacial clefts, diminished lung, and brain development.

Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are more likely to have asthma, develop colic and develop mental health issues, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Should You Vape While Pregnant To Quit Smoking?

When it comes to smoking tobacco or using an electronic nicotine delivery system to vape while pregnant, vaping seems to be a little less harmful. This is because the e-liquids contain fewer dangerous substances than cigarette smoke does. But the fact remains that there are very dangerous substances in both cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and neither choice is actually ‘safe’ for you or your baby.5

The nicotine, alone, makes it a health hazard to vape when you’re pregnant. In addition to nicotine, a known carcinogenic substance, some flavorings contained in e-liquids can harm a developing fetus.

Aside from the health dangers of vaping while pregnant, there has been no definitive evidence to prove that e-cigarettes actually help people to quit smoking.

The most effective route to recovery from an addiction to nicotine includes individual and group counseling.

FDA-Approved Options

There are also FDA-approved medications to help people overcome a smoking addiction, however these are not recommended for women who are pregnant. The FDA has not approved vaping and e-cigarettes for the purpose of smoking cessation.

Vaping while pregnant is not safe for your or your baby’s health. Keep in mind that e-cigarettes are not government-regulated for the amounts or types of chemicals contained in the e-juice cartridges, including nicotine. The safety of other ingredients, such as preservatives and flavorings, has not been well-documented.

Nicotine is a highly addictive, toxic substance that interferes with fetal brain development, may negatively affect fetal lung development and places your baby at a higher risk for SIDS. Due to unregulated nature of e-cigarettes, labeling can vary widely and may not even be accurate. 6 Some e-cigarettes may contain even higher levels of nicotine than traditional cigarettes.

Vaping is Not a Proven Safe Alternative to Smoking Cigarettes

If you smoke cigarettes and are expecting a baby or are anticipating becoming pregnant, it’s best to cease your intake of nicotine to avoid endangering your baby. To vape while pregnant in hopes that it will safely replace traditional cigarette smoking has not been proven to work.

There are concerns about nicotine passing into breast milk that are important to consider post-delivery if you intend to nurse your baby. Also weigh the dangers of secondhand vapors if your partner smokes or vapes on a regular basis.

It’s a good idea to speak with your physician about ways to avoid smoking or vaping before or when you become pregnant.

How to Quit Vaping

There are many different ways to quit any type of smoking. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been know to help people quit smoking for the long-term. Some people are able to quit smoking by finding an oral replacement, like candy or sunflower seeds, using a journal to address anxiety throughout the process, or even used modern technology, like phone apps.


Resources

  1. https://news.vcu.edu/article/Vaping_while_pregnant_could_cause_craniofacial_birth_defects
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_heart/know_your_risks/5-truths-you-need-to-know-about-vaping
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4154203/
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/tobaccousepregnancy/index.htm
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/tobaccousepregnancy/index.htm
  6. https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/23/suppl_2/ii11.full