Dismiss Modal

Years of studies have made it crystal clear that smoking is harmful, especially for pregnant mothers. But as vapes and electronic cigarettes have grown more popular, rumors have swirled that they’re less dangerous than cigarettes. The cloud of misinformation about vape usage has grown thicker and hazier than the aerosol puffs they emit. Both are considered tobacco products, and both contain nicotine. But, just how bad are they for pregnant individuals and developing babies?

Christopher Sundstrom, MD, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) andobstetrician and gynecologist (OB-GYN) at North Florida Women’s Care, weighed in on the serious risks associated with the use of tobacco products during pregnancy.

"Most women know that smoking is bad for their own health, but it can also cause serious problems in their pregnancy," says Sundstrom. "Smoking in pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight and a potentially life-threatening condition called placental abruption. Smoking also increases the risk of stillborn babies by 50%."

Misconceptions About Vaping While Pregnant

Because vaping is a newer trend, there is less research available about it. This contributes to the misconception that vaping during pregnancy is safe.

In recent years, medical professionals have seen an alarming increase in pregnant women who vape. Some women who smoked before pregnancy are misled into believing vaping is a safe substitute for cigarettes or a good way to kick their smoking habit while pregnant. On the contrary, vaping is not currently FDA-approved as an aid to quit smoking and is not as benign as people may think.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) both warn against the use of e-cigarette products by pregnant and postpartum individuals, children and adolescents, and adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

What Makes Vapes Dangerous?

Dr. Sundstrom explains, “While there is plenty of evidence concerning the risks of smoking and pregnancy, the effects of vaping or electronic cigarettes during pregnancy are not as clear. This is a new area of research and there are studies that suggest vaping can have harmful effects on a developing baby.”

While there is plenty of evidence concerning the risks of smoking and pregnancy, the effects of vaping or electronic cigarettes during pregnancy are not as clear. While this is a new area of research, there are studies that suggest vaping can have harmful effects on a developing baby.

To fully understand the risks, we must understand how electronic cigarettes work. Electronic cigarettes go by many names and come in various forms: e-cigs, vapes, vape pens, tank systems, e-hookahs, mods and ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems), to name a few.

Most vapes consist of a battery, a heating device and a liquid cartridge. The liquid typically contains nicotine, flavorings and other additive chemicals. The vape heats the liquid into an aerosol that you inhale. This aerosol is advertised as having fewer harmful toxicants than traditional cigarette smoke; however, it still contains nicotine, which is toxic to developing fetuses. It may also contain ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, including diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds; cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead. Even some vapes marketed to contain zero nicotine have been found to contain some.

Nicotine is extracted from tobacco plants, which is why vapes are still considered tobacco products. Nicotine is a developmental toxicant that can negatively affect pregnancy and infant health. It can damage the development of the baby’s brain and lungs. The flavoring chemicals and other additives may also be harmful to a developing baby.

Should the device break, being directly exposed to the cartridge liquid can also be toxic. According to the CDC and the Office on Smoking and Health, people have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes. In addition to the harmful substances vapes contain, malfunctioning devices can cause injuries. Defective devices have caused explosions and fires.

How to Safely Quit Smoking While Pregnant

During each day of pregnancy, expectant moms must weigh the risks and rewards for things they eat, drink or otherwise consume. While it is possible that vaping is somewhat less harmful than traditional cigarette smoking, there is not enough research to determine how harmful it truly is, and the devices themselves are dangerous. Vaping is not worth the risk to the pregnant mother or her baby.

"If you use tobacco products of any kind and are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, now is the time to quit! Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about how to quit smoking or vaping today. There are many resources to help you kick the habit for good," Dr. Sundstrom encourages.

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and North Florida Women’s Care partner with Big Bend Area Health Education Center (AHEC) to connect patients with quitting resources. Big Bend AHEC offers free classes – in person at the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center, other locations and online – led by trained specialists.

They often provide free nicotine replacement like patches, lozenges and gum. These can help smokers wean off nicotine and cope with withdrawal symptoms. These are an option for pregnant people who are trying to quit smoking.

"Some women even find it easier to quit when they are pregnant. Rather than pregnancy being a condition keeping them from beloved old habits, for many women, it is a helpful incentive for developing a healthier lifestyle," says Dr. Sundstrom. "If you can maintain it through delivery and breastfeeding, the changes you make during pregnancy can reward you with a healthy baby and a healthier and longer life for yourself."


Content Apps ID
External ID
Integration Source
Integration Source URL

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare is a private, not-for-profit community healthcare system committed to transforming care, advancing health, and improving lives with an ultimate vision of leading the community to be the healthiest in the nation.