E-Cigarettes Help Pregnant Smokers Quit Without Risk

Researchers at Queen Mary UOL have found that vapes do not pose a risk to pregnant smokers and the outcome of their pregnancy.

A study funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) compared the pregnancy outcomes of over 1,100 pregnant smokers who used or did not use nicotine in the form of an e-cigarette or a nicotine patch.

The data found that babies born to women who didn’t smoke during pregnancy did not differ in birth weight, whether nicotine products were used or not, while regular consumption of nicotine did not result in any adverse pregnancy outcomes.

E-cigarettes were also shown to have been more commonly used than nicotine patches, with 47% of pregnant smokers preferring to vape compared to 21%.

Furthermore, birth weights didn’t differ between women who smoked and used nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products during pregnancy, and women who only smoked.

How was the study conducted?

The study utilised data collected from pregnant smokers who were patients at 23 hospitals in England and a stop smoking service in Scotland.

Researchers took measurements of salivary cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine which can be measured in saliva, at the start and end of each pregnancy. 

This helped to gather and collate a mix of information about the pregnant women’s use of nicotine, respiratory symptoms, birth weights, and other data about their babies’ births.

What does the study mean?
The study, published in the Addiction Journal, means that nicotine is not likely to be a substance that causes pregnancy problems, and pregnant smokers will be able to quit using vapes, or other NRT products.

Peter Hajek, lead researcher from Queen Mary University of London, said: “The trial contributes answers to two important questions, one practical and one concerning our understanding of risks of smoking. 

“E-cigarettes helped pregnant smokers quit without posing any detectable risks to pregnancy compared with stopping smoking without further nicotine use. Using nicotine containing aids to stop smoking in pregnancy thus appears safe. 

“The harms to pregnancy from smoking, in late pregnancy at least, seem to be due to other chemicals in tobacco smoke rather than nicotine.”

Professor Michael Ussher from the Population Health Research Institute at St George’s, University of London, said: “This study is important as it shows that individuals who stop smoking early in their pregnancy and switch to vaping or using nicotine replacement therapy are no more likely to have poor pregnancy and birth outcomes, such as low birth weight, than those who stopped smoking without using these nicotine products.

He added: “This work provides the most reliable evidence as it more carefully measured the levels of use of nicotine products and smoking than previous studies. The problem with any earlier studies reporting the harm of vaping in pregnancy is that this could be due to current or previous smoking.”

Why is smoking while pregnant bad?

According to the NHS, smoking cigarettes restricts the oxygen supply to unborn babies, meaning their heart must work harder when you smoke.

Cigarettes contain over 4000 chemicals, over 70 of which are thought to cause cancer. They contain tar and carbon monoxide, which are particularly harmful to the development of a fetus.

Secondhand Smoke 
Children whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma and other serious illnesses. Additionally, inhaling secondhand smoke can reduce your baby’s birth weight, which could spell health problems, such as trouble breathing and feeding.

Secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), while babies whose parents smoke are more likely to be admitted to hospital for bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia.

Chemicals from smoking can linger in the air for up to 5 hours.

Carbon Monoxide Testing During Pregnancy
All pregnant women undergo a carbon monoxide test at their first antenatal appointment.

You blow into a machine which measures the carbon monoxide present in your body, and the result is evident instantly.

Results of 4 or more will indicate you are a pregnant smoker, and the midwife will ask whether you smoke or live with someone who smokes. It’s vital to tell the midwife the truth for the sake of your baby’s health, who will then recommend the correct help.

NRT And Vapes During Pregnancy
NRT provides only nicotine, eliminating the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, making it a significantly safer option than continuing to smoke. It supplies the nicotine that you would normally obtain from cigarettes, aiding in managing cravings.

Although vapes are relatively new, and it’s difficult to tell what they’re long term effects are, current evidence suggests that they are far less risky than smoking while pregnant.

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine through inhaling vapour, and are much safer for your baby than continuing to smoke is. To cigarette smokers, nicotine is not a harmful substance, but to non-smokers, it can be highly addictive.

Professor Linda Bauld, of The University of Edinburgh, who contributed to the Queen Mary study, said: “Clinicians, pregnant women and their families have questions about the safety of using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or e-cigarettes during pregnancy. 

“Women who continue to smoke during pregnancy often find it difficult to stop but products like NRT or e-cigarettes can help them to do so. These results suggest that NRT or vaping can be used as part of a quit attempt without adverse effects. 

“Our findings should be reassuring, and provide further important evidence to guide decision-making on smoking cessation during pregnancy.”

Benefits Of Pregnant Smokers Quitting

Quitting smoking while pregnant is absolutely essential to your baby’s health. Smoking not only slows down growth, but increases the risk of miscarriage by 24 – 32%.

Stopping smoking while pregnant provides many benefits:

·Reduces the risk of having a miscarriage or a stillbirth
·Your baby’s more likely to be a born a healthy weight
·Reduces the risk of SIDS
·Your baby is less likely to be born premature

The earlier you quit smoking the better, as quitting smoking will also provide innumerable benefits to your own health as well as your babies.

But even if you quit just a few weeks from giving birth, it is worth it to give your baby the best chance possible. Even after one day of not smoking, your baby’s lungs will develop better through easier access to oxygen. 

The Queen Mary study has confirmed that e-cigarettes, other vape products and NRT products are a far safer alternative to traditional smoking for pregnant smokers.

Although earlier studies on the effect of vaping and nicotine on pregnancy have reported potential harm, the thorough testing of levels of nicotine use in this study appear to give a more complete view.

Stopping smoking using of nicotine products during pregnancy may prevent a return to cigarettes after pregnancy. Those who stop smoking without the use of nicotine products will be losing out on the necessary nicotine fix that they’re body requires, meaning there’s more of a chance of returning to smoking after pregnancy. 

In both cases, it is evident that the outcome of the pregnancy would not be affected.