Every mother can attest to the fact that protecting their little ones comes before anything else. The same is truer for expecting mothers; you want to ensure you follow all safety measures to protect your baby. This is the primary reason women who smoke stop using tobacco once they realize they are pregnant.
However, there is a rising trend among smokers that vaping is a suitable substitute for nicotine smoking. Some believe that vape juices or e-liquids do not produce harmful vapors, so they cannot be as dangerous as smoking traditional cigarettes. Is this true?
This article explains the possible risks medically associated with vaping while pregnant. It may not be as safe as many believe, and you may be harming yourself and the baby if you vape.
Is Vaping Safe During Pregnancy?
Before determining whether or not vaping is bad for pregnant women, you must understand how it works. First, vaping is a nicotine delivery system just like a regular cigarette. The only difference is the lack of smoke from vape pens. You do not inhale smoke but vapor in the case of e-cigarettes and vaping products.
Second, the vapor is not harmless. It also carries nicotine and other additives, such as flavorings from chemicals and base oils from the liquid. Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are not exactly harmless substances, and they are a main part of the liquid used in vape tanks.
Third, most vapes release vapor into the lungs. Others work as a mouth-to-lung device, where the smoke goes into your mouth first before heading into the lungs, as against going straight to the lungs. Both methods eventually produce the same long-term effects.
Possible Dangers of Vaping While Pregnant
There is no conclusive study on how vaping negatively affects pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are yet to approve vaping as a substitute for smoking. The reason lies in the fact that no researcher or doctor is willing to use a pregnant woman in such a clinical trial. Therefore, it is s challenging study.
However, there are clear results on how nicotine affects a baby and mother. Since vape e-liquids typically contain nicotine, it is safe to say that the results of smoking while pregnant will be the same as vaping while pregnant.
Vaping is not entirely safer than smoking. Because it produces vapor does not mean it is completely harmless. The vapor still contains harmful additives that can affect you and the baby. The following are possible risks associated with vaping while pregnant because of the presence of nicotine:
- Preterm delivery: You run the risk of delivering before your due date, which can be dangerous to the baby, especially if you deliver in the seventh or eighth months.
- Miscarriage: Preterm delivery is dangerous, but so is having a miscarriage. That means losing the baby entirely. It may also cause internal complications that may be fatal.
- Stillbirth: Another possible risk is having a stillbirth. The nicotine delivery into your system may be too much for the baby to handle, leading to its death.
- Ectopic pregnancy: There is a risk of the fertilized egg implanting outside your uterus and stopping development as it should. The egg may go to one of the fallopian tubes and cause other issues.
- Placental abruption: If you have placental abruption, where the placenta completely separates from the uterine walls, the baby is likely to die. In severe cases, you and your baby are in danger, and one of the leading causes is smoking.
- Low birth weight: Having a baby with a significantly low birth weight results in hospitalization. The doctors will need to keep an eye on the baby in the NICU to ensure it gains weight within the next few weeks.
The risk of vaping or smoking for a baby include but is not limited to the following:
- Toxicity: The toxins found in the chemicals infused in vaping liquids can ultimately claim your baby’s life. It is still fragile and depends on your system to survive. So, ingesting toxins can e fatal to the fetus.
- Damage to the brain: Nicotine delivery into the system increases the chances of damage to the baby’s brain. Since it is still small, a developing baby’s brain is delicate and cannot withstand toxins. This risk increases even more if you regularly vape.
- Defects at birth: Your baby may be born with defects, such as clefts in the mouth and jaw, deformed features, and other abnormalities. There is also the risk of slow brain development and lung issues, especially if the mother’s lungs are affected. Its sensory perceptions are dull because of the possible damage to the brain and other systems.
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): You may wake one morning and discover your baby is dead. There is no clear or exact cause of SIDS, so doctors may never be able to tell you what happened. However, note that vaping or smoking increases the risk of SIDS.
- Development and behavioral issues: This will become obvious after birth when the child grows and develops in various areas. You may notice it has an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other issues. But while the risk is there, that is not always the case.
Possible Dangers to the Mother
For a mother, the dangers are numerous. Even if you carry your baby full-term and deliver safely, the risk of reduced fertility increases the more you vape. The same applies if you are still expecting to get pregnant. Other dangers of vaping while pregnant for a mother include:
One of the top risks of vaping is nicotine addiction. Vape liquids may not contain high amounts of nicotine like traditional cigarettes, but the risk remains, especially if you are an avid vaper. Since addictions are difficult to break and you are having a baby, you have many things at stake.
2. Constant Nausea
You may already have your plate full of morning sickness and other maladies associated with pregnancy. But you run the risk of becoming more nauseous and sick if you vape. And you may also notice a constant headache after vaping.
These may be a result of the volatile compounds from heating the liquid in vape pens. The compounds produce toxins that build and eventually cause different ailments, including a headache, migraine, and nausea.
3. ENT Irritation
Vaping involves inhaling vapor instead of smoke, so many users are deceived into thinking it cannot have the same effect on the ear, nose, and throat (ENT). However, vape juices contain more chemicals than you know, apart from the obvious vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol.
The flavorings are chemically produced, and other additives make up the liquid. Regular vapor will eventually affect your nose, throat, and ear, causing excessive irritation. This is especially true if you are allergic to any of the compounds.
4. Respiratory Issues
Pregnancy increases a woman’s vulnerability and leaves her prone to different infections. The baby is usually as affected as she is. If you are pregnant and vaping regularly, there is a high risk of respiratory tract issues and distress.
This happens due to the toxins in the e-liquids, which may include lead, tin, and nickel. The problems may continue even after the pregnancy and may reduce your chances of having another baby.
5. Organ and Nervous System Damage
When heating the liquid used in vaping, the heat creates volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. This increases the risk of using or touching the liquid for you or anyone else. Ingested, the increased toxins can negatively affect the nervous system, reduce its functionality, or cause lung disease.
With long-term use, the kidneys and liver may weaken and lose their capacity to flush out the toxins. Eventually, there may be organ damage or entire system failure. However, this risk is rare and may happen to only less than one percent of users. The downside is that pregnant women are more at risk because of their vulnerability.
6. Aggravated Asthma
If you already have asthma, vaping is not a safe way to smoke. You are still at risk of aggravating your asthma or having a fatal attack. Asthma attacks put your baby in harm’s way due to the loss of oxygen, which may be fatal to the brain.
When heated, propylene glycol can change its chemical composition. This, in turn, can produce propylene oxide, a verified toxin that causes cancer. Like organ damage, cancer is a rare effect of using electronic nicotine delivery systems.
You must be a regular and heavy user for the cancer-causing chemicals to affect you. However, in pregnancy, the risk becomes heightened because your system is different from everybody else’s. Consequently, the chances of getting cancer increase if you vape while pregnant.
Dangers of Second-hand Vape Smoke
If you live or are regularly around someone who is a heavy vaper, you run the risk of hurting yourself and your baby with second-hand smoke or vapor. It is the same as being around someone who is a heavy smoker. The nicotine and chemical additives can cause as much harm as vaping yourself.
There is a need for more research into the effects and dangers of second-hand vaping vapor on pregnancy, but it is safe to treat it the same way you would treat second-hand smoke from a traditional cigarette for risk prevention. Note that the problem is with constant e-cigarette exposure, not infrequent or occasional exposure.
Vaping while pregnant is almost as harmful as smoking cigarettes. Regular and heavy electronic cigarette usage can cause long-term damage to you and the baby.
The damage includes birth defects, SIDS, ectopic pregnancy, and organ damage in severe cases. In the same vein, it is not safe to vape while breastfeeding. Speak with a doctor to determine healthy ways to cut nicotine use until after your pregnancy and breastfeeding period.