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Are e-cigarettes safe in pregnancy?

Two million people in the UK use e-cigarettes

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
woman holding e-cigarette

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.

If I’m struggling to give up cigarettes, 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.

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.

E-cigarettes allow you to inhale nicotine through a vapour rather than smoke. You inhale nicotine through cigarettes along with thousands of harmful chemicals. By itself, nicotine is relatively harmless.  

E-cigarettes do not produce tar and carbon monoxide, two of the main toxins in cigarette smoke. It is the carbon monoxide that is most harmful to developing babies. The vapour from an e-cigarette does contain some of the potentially harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.

What’s the problem with e-cigarettes?

The problem with e-cigarettes is that, so far, they are unregulated. Much is unknown about electronic cigarettes and vaping. So, whilst we can say that they are less dangerous than smoking cigarettes, other nicotine replacement (NRT) products that have been tested and are safe to use in pregnancy, are recommended instead.

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.

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

Are e-cigarettes safe in pregnancy?