Are E-cigarettes safe for my baby?
E-cigarettes have exploded in popularity in the past five years, but is it safe to be vaping when you’re pregnant?
At a glance
- E-cigarettes have only been around a short time, so long-term research is yet to be completed
- The safest thing to do for your baby, is to not smoke at all during pregnancy
The short answer is that no one is sure yet because e-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough for long-term research to be completed, although clinical trials are currently going on.
If you’re a smoker, the absolute safest thing you can do for you and your unborn baby’s health is to quit immediately.
Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals apart from nicotine, and it’s these (particularly carbon monoxide) that scientists think do the harm to your unborn baby by restricting their oxygen supply.
Babies born to smokers have a higher risk of stillbirth, they’re more likely to be premature, they’re about 8oz lighter than babies of non-smokers, and are at increased risk of cot death.
Children whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma, and more likely to be admitted to hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia during their first year.
If I’m struggling to give up, are e-cigarettes are safer?
Probably, because e-cigarettes usually contain only nicotine (the addictive part of tobacco) plus a chemical called propylene glycol which carries the nicotine in the vapour so you can inhale it. Some brands of e-cigarette are sold as nicotine-free.
A recent review by Public Health England estimated that they were 95% safer than cigarettes because they don’t have the thousands of other harmful chemicals that cigarettes contain.
There’s no evidence that nicotine harms your unborn baby, according to the NHS. That said, we can’t be sure it’s safe either, since not enough research has been done.
So it’s likely that vaping is far safer than smoking in pregnancy, but it pays not to be complacent. Some research recently suggested that levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes can cause lung inflammation.
What’s the problem with e-cigarettes?
This booming industry is not yet regulated, unlike nicotine replacement products like patches and inhalators. E-cigarettes will be regulated from 2016, but until then we can’t be sure what exactly is in them, despite what it says on the label.
We also can’t be sure of the quality of the manufacturing process or the raw ingredients. American regulators found that some e-cigarettes contained traces of cancer-causing toxins. Others labelled as nicotine-free actually did contain some nicotine. And there’s no standard dose of nicotine, so you could be inhaling more than you think.
The upshot is that you can’t really know exactly what chemicals you’re breathing in – all of which have the potential to reach your baby via your bloodstream.
What’s the best way to give up smoking?
Discuss the options with your midwife. He/she is more likely to recommend Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) than e-cigarettes as it’s a regulated industry and more research has been done on the effects (although it’s still not known if it’s safe in pregnancy). It’s also available on the NHS, unlike e-cigarettes.
Options with NRT include gums, patches, sprays, lozenges and inhalators (not to be confused with e-cigarettes).
Pregnant women aren’t advised to take stop-smoking tablets such as Champix or Zyban.
Health-wise, the best advice is to give up nicotine entirely, but if it was that easy everyone would have done it by now!
But replacing regular cigarettes with e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement products is likely to be the lesser of two evils – both for you and your baby.