Is vaping in pregnancy safe for you and baby or is it another thing that you’ll need to give up, at least temporarily?
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Vaping During Pregnancy – Safe or Not?
Is it OK to vape while pregnant?
The truth is the information available on the safety of vaping isn’t conclusive just yet but from the research that has been carried out vaping doesn’t seem to be 100% safe (1), so that means vaping while pregnant is not completely safe either.
When compared to cigarette smoking, vaping has been found to be a safer method of smoking (2). So if it’s a toss-up between cigarettes and vaping then vaping wins the safety contest hands down. But that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free.
What is Vaping?
Vaping is a newer way to take nicotine and other substances such as THC and has only been around since 2007. That’s been long enough to look at short-term risks, but not long enough for there to be definitive studies done with concrete evidence linking vaping to pregnancy risks. However, there is an abundance of situations and scenarios that have arisen through research that suggest a likely link between the two (3).
The act of vaping is the inhalation of foreign chemicals into one’s lungs, usually as an alternative or means of quitting smoking cigarettes.
Risks of Vaping?
Liquid does not belong in your lungs, and your lungs have an inability to rid of that mist once it’s there in excess. On a larger level, you’d recognize this situation as drowning. On a vaping level, for the inhaler alone, ingesting excessive liquid into your lungs can cause pulmonary edema, which can be quickly fatal if not treated immediately.
The act of vaping can also cause popcorn lung, a rare condition that stems from damage to the lung tissues and airways in the smallest pathways of the lungs, creating breathing difficulties and a potentially fatal situation. It gets its name from the fact that the same chemical gives popcorn its buttery flavor, and popcorn factory workers once fell ill to the same issue.
The chemicals that make up the liquid used in e-cigarettes contain propylene glycol, nicotine, glycerin, and other flavoring chemicals. Some research even notes that, when the liquids are heated to emit the vapor into your lungs, other chemicals form, some of which can harm the lungs (4) and some that can cause cancer.
How does nicotine affect a baby during pregnancy?
No baby should be subject to being victim to—or addicted to– any given substance prior to its birth, and you’re subjecting your baby to even more risks than you’d encounter.
The presence of nicotine in your system at all during pregnancy puts fetal development, particularly in the brain area, at significant risk. When used during pregnancy, other smokeless tobacco options, such as chewing tobacco, have been associated with infant apnea, preterm delivery, and even stillbirth.
Nicotine use also narrows the blood vessel, which can restrict oxygen and nutrients to your baby. Some research has concluded that exposure specifically to the flavoring chemicals in vaping liquids damaged cells that eventually form the facial structure of your developing baby. The damage can cause facial clefts and even disproportioned facial features. Facial clefts can cause long-term hearing and eating issues as well.
Vaping versus Cigarettes
Scientifically, the FDA does not admit that vaping is a viable means of quitting smoking cigarettes. However, there is a lower level of nicotine present in vaping, and the number of chemicals present is far less than what is packed into cigarettes. So, vaping as either a means of weaning off cigarettes or as an alternative to the nicotine addict while pregnant is certainly a better option than smoking cigarettes.
It’s Not Just the Nicotine
It’s important to note that most vaping options contain nicotine, but it is possible to vape without its presence, which is a route that may deserve more attention. However, remember that just the flavoring chemicals, when researched, were found to cause facial defects in growing babies and the FDA found that some vaping liquids, though marketed as nicotine-free, actually contained low levels of nicotine.
Physically, it’s important to note that vaping devices have even been known to explode during usage, putting your actual face at risk.
Kicking the Smoking Habit
If you’re aiming to quit smoking cigarettes and are relying upon vaping as a means to wean, note that only 28% of those who go this route actually end up quitting smoking. This is because the habit and addiction is just fed in a different form. To actually quit nicotine and/or inhaling these chemicals altogether, you’ll have to conquer all that it entails, including the habit of lighting up in the car, taking smoke breaks at work, disassociating smoking from drinking alcohol socially, etc.
Your Baby is Relying on You
In the meantime, keep in mind that your baby is relying upon you and the breaths that you take for oxygen. Your child is breathing as a result of the umbilical cord. Every missed breath you spend inhaling liquid is a missed breath for your child, so consider the risks across the board before deciding to put both you and your child in harm’s way.
Susana is Pregged.com’s Feature Editor and is a dedicated Mom of 3, Pregnancy Geek, Researcher, and Writer.