is vaping during pregnancy harmful?

If you are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant, you may be wondering whether vaping is harmful to your unborn baby. You may be trying to kick the habit of smoking or maybe you’re worried about the exposure from electronic cigarettes? Here’s everything you need to know about vaping and pregnancy.

Conflicting health advice

As parents to be, your mind will be racing with the things you need to do in order to protect your growing baby. There are things you can’t eat like soft, unpasteurised cheeses and you’ll no doubt be advised to not drink and to give up smoking.

You may have been a smoker, switching to e-cigarettes in a bid to become healthier and kick the habit, or maybe your partner or other family members us an e-cig and you’re wondering whether second-hand smoke from vapes can be harmful.

Quite often, advice during pregnancy is conflicting with some saying various ideas are old wives tales but when it comes to vaping, what do the experts say?

Back to basics - what are e-cigs?

There are many different types of e-cigs and they come in many sizes and shapes. Some look like normal cigarettes but others are much larger. But no matter the name or shape, all vapes are essentially the same thing.

They deliver an inhaled vapour, sometimes containing nicotine but there are nicotine-free e-juices too. A vape device has a heating component that warms up the liquid inside, which in turn releases a vapour, which is inhaled and exhaled by the user. The liquid is known as ‘e-liquid’ and is a blend of chemicals that can be flavoured or unflavoured, and are available in varying levels of nicotine content. This tends to be why people claim that e-cigs are great for those who want to quit completely as it allows them to reduce their nicotine intake to nothing whilst still using the device.

Are they safer than regular cigarettes?

Studies into the health of e-cig are in the early stages so is a relatively small amount of research into the side effect compared to the years of intense research into regular cigarettes. However, what we do know is at the moment is that it looks as if vaping is a healthier or better option compared to normal cigarettes,. Findings are encouraging with many who vape regularly showing no signs of health issues including with the digestive system, which is affected by smoking.

We know that smoke from normal cigarettes contains over 7,000 chemicals, many of which have been linked to causing cancer. Studies have shown vaping, although it does expose the body to some toxic chemicals, it is far lower than smoking cigarettes.

E-liquids are made up of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine and flavouring chemicals. And some research has shown that when this liquid is heated at a temperature -   most vaping devices allow the user to determine temperature every time they vape - other chemicals are formed some of which could cause cancer.

A recent review published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for example, found that most of the label's stating how much nicotine was in the product, was actually incorrect, and other harmful toxins besides nicotine we’re found in the refill cartridges of e-cigs. In the UK, e-juices and their components are regulated, something that responsible manufacturers and vaping retailers are keen to enforce. Sticking with well-known brands of vaping juice is essential as they will list all ingredients.

Some regulating bodies have warned against the use of e-cigarettes, including second-hand exposure has a high potential of being hazardous and harmful to children and teens. In 2016, all packaging of vaping products has to follow the same strict rules and regulations for packaging as its fellow tobacco counterparts. This also means that all packaging has to be child proof and vaping companies are banned from advertising.

The danger of smoking or vaping during pregnancy

It goes without saying that smoking is harmful to your baby, both before or after birth. This is why many governing bodies and doctors will urge you to quit smoking -and vaping - during pregnancy. 

The following pointers have been made specifically regarding tobacco cigarettes. If you vape using an -e-juice that contain nicotine, experts warn it could also increase the risk of:

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Miscarriage
  • Problems with the placenta (such as placental abruption)
  • Preterm delivery
  • Stillbirth
  • Low birth weight, which may require hospitalization in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Higher risk of birth defects (including orofacial clefts and decreased lung and brain development)

After birth, children of mothers who smoked cigarettes during pregnancy are at higher risk of:

  • Asthma
  • Colic
  • Development of chronic conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Second-hand smoke and your baby

Second-hand tobacco smoke is known to affect babies and children, which is why most parents who smoke do so away from their children and outside. When it comes to vaping, the advice is less clear. There are those who believe the vapour will contain harmful chemicals.

The effects of second-hand vape are not well known as yet but it pays to be safe. If you do continue to vape after the birth, do so away from the baby and try not to do so indoors, even if you are not in the same room.

Second-hand tobacco smoke has been linked to an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrom, known as cot death. It can cause other health problems too in children, such as more frequent illnesses, asthma and other breathing problems and ear infections.

Recommendations for the duration of your  pregnancy

Specialists suggest restricting your exposure to cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapour as much as is possible throughout your pregnancy. Here's how:

  • Avoid all nicotine products, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.
  • Make your home, car and environment smoke-free.
  • If you feel as though not ready or able to quit smoking, it's best to smoke outside of the home with a separate layer of clothes and change them before going back inside.
  • Politely ask people not to smoke around you.
  • If you're visiting the home of someone you know smokes inside, try to socialize outside whenever possible.
  • As parents, we want to do everything to ensure our children get the best start in life. And that includes the personal choices you make. What do you feel about vaping and pregnancy?