When you’re pregnant, you have more than your own health to think about. Everything you eat, every medication you take, and most other things you do affect the baby. This is why most moms-to-be know that smoking when you’re pregnant is a really bad idea. But quitting smoking can be really difficult, so what if you can’t do it? You might be considering using nicotine patches and gums, or even using e-cigarettes instead of smoking, but will it really be any better for the baby? Is it safe to vape when you’re pregnant?
Smoking During Pregnancy: How it Harms Your Baby
Before considering the potential for risk from patches, e-cigarettes or other nicotine-containing products, it’s a good idea to be clear on why smoking when you’re pregnant isn’t a good idea. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals, and about 70 of them are known to cause cancer. On top of this, many others, like carbon monoxide, are harmful in other ways.
Carbon monoxide reduces the ability of blood cells to carry oxygen, and this (as you might expect) can have serious consequences for both you and your baby. With less oxygen during development, babies born to moms who smoke are more likely to have low birth weights, be born prematurely or even be stillborn. Nicotine worsens this, because it restricts blood flow by tightening the blood vessels.
There are many other conditions that can be caused by smoking during pregnancy, because there are many other harmful things in tobacco smoke besides carbon monoxide. Smoking while you’re pregnant increases the risk of SIDS, miscarriage, birth defects and early separation of the placenta from the womb, which can be dangerous to both you and your baby.
This really only scratches the surface, but it clearly shows that there are many risks to smoking during pregnancy. If you can quit, you definitely should, and the sooner you do it, the better.
Nicotine Patches and Gums During Pregnancy
So what about nicotine patches or gums? The big advantage here is that nicotine patches contain much fewer harmful chemicals in comparison to cigarettes. There is no carbon monoxide, and although small amounts of carcinogens do make it into the products (during the process of extracting the nicotine), it appears that it should be safer for your baby to put on a patch instead of smoking a cigarette.
The research on this isn’t conclusive, but the findings do point tentatively in the direction you’d expect. There unfortunately aren’t enough studies to be definitive, but using nicotine patches or gums seems to be safer than smoking when you’re pregnant. However, this alone is some reason for caution when you’re using any nicotine-containing product during pregnancy. Nicotine itself, for example, could be harmful to your baby.
The basic message is that nicotine replacement therapy does carry risks to pregnant women and their babies, but that risk is much smaller than the benefits from quitting smoking.
Vaping During Pregnancy: Is it Harmful to Your Baby?
The issue of vaping during pregnancy is likely to be a lot like the issue of using nicotine replacement therapy. Studies on using an e-cig during pregnancy don’t even exist yet, but the same principles apply to e-cigarettes as applied to patches and gums. For example, e-cigs don’t contain carbon monoxide, and levels of harmful chemicals are generally more like those in a nicotine patch than those in a cigarette.
The overall evidence on e-cigarettes suggests that they’re at least 95 % safer than smoking cigarettes. Pregnant women have to be very careful what they consume, of course, but if the choice is between cigarettes and e-cigarettes during pregnancy, you’re better off with e-cigarettes.
But on the question of “is vaping in pregnancy harmful?” the answer is a much firmer “yes.” Nicotine might not stand out as particularly dangerous when it’s found in a cocktail of harmful chemicals as part of smoke, but it isn’t benign either. Plus, e-cigarettes do contain small amounts of harmful chemicals, so that alone shows that it isn’t completely safe.
Smoking and Pregnancy: What to Do
After that brief overview, the message is clear: you shouldn’t smoke or consume any nicotine products during pregnancy. If you can quit entirely before you get pregnant or early in your pregnancy, that will be best for your baby.
But not everybody can do that, and if you’re one of them, you may need an alternative, less harmful source of nicotine. Despite not being the safest option for yourself or your baby, using an alternative nicotine product is likely to be much better for you and your baby than smoking. Again, switching to an alternative nicotine source before getting pregnant or as early in your pregnancy as you can is the best approach.
If you successfully switch, you’ve made it much less likely your baby will be harmed as a result of your nicotine use. However, you should also try to reduce your nicotine level and move towards quitting using your alternative nicotine product as soon as you can.
Tips for Switching to Vaping While Pregnant
So now you’ve learned about the state of the science, you may be interested in switching to e-cigarettes to minimize the risk to your baby. But how do you give yourself the best chance of success?
- Get a high-quality e-cigarette. Larger “box mods” with variable wattage are more efficient at getting you nicotine than smaller models, so will make it easier for you to quit smoking. However, if you want something simpler, a device like the eGo AIO or the eGo One are great options.
- Choose your e-liquid carefully. Select a juice with enough nicotine for you: with one of the higher-quality e-cigs listed above, you’re unlikely to need more than 1.2 % nicotine.
- Find the right flavor. Most smokers want a tobacco e-juice to switch to, but many options aren’t too realistic in flavor. The best options are “naturally extracted tobacco” (NET) e-liquids, which take their flavor from real tobacco leaves for unparalleled authenticity.
- Vape regularly. Research has shown that people using high-quality e-cigs like the ones recommended above every day are more likely to quit smoking.
- Vape until you feel satisfied. Vaping isn’t as efficient at getting you nicotine as smoking, so you need to vape for longer than you’d have smoked a cigarette to feel satisfied. Vape when you would have smoked, but keep going for longer. You should also inhale more slowly and for longer than you would with a cigarette.
If you’re successful in switching, the only remaining challenge is reducing your nicotine intake as much as possible. This just means gradually decreasing the nicotine strength you use, but remember that the most important thing is avoiding smoking. Ideally, you’ll be able to become nicotine-free (and stop vaping), but if you need nicotine to keep you from smoking, vaping or using nicotine replacement therapy throughout your pregnancy is better than relapsing to smoking.
Conclusion: Better Than Smoking, Not Better Than Quitting
When you’re pregnant, the advice on nicotine replacement therapy or e-cigarettes can be summed up very simply: quit using nicotine entirely if you can, but if not, using an alternative nicotine product is the next best approach. Keep your use to a minimum, but as long as you avoid cigarettes, your baby will have the best chance of being born healthy.