Pregnancy can be a very emotional, and even stressful, time. Add to this any worries you may have about smoking or vaping while pregnant, and you could find yourself experiencing an additional amount of stress. If you've already switched from smoking to vaping, you may be wondering if you can vape while pregnant without any side-effects. Should you currently be smoking in pregnancy, you could be looking for the best way to quit and considering vaping.
We're here to provide the right information about smoking and vaping in pregnancy as well as facts and advice regarding vaping and breastfeeding.
Smoking in Pregnancy
It can be very difficult to quit smoking but according to the NHS:
"Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life."[i]
Worringly, research reveals[ii] that almost 1 in 3 teenagers smoke during pregnancy, and that an alarming number of expectant mothers from ages 18 to 30 smoke while pregnant.
What are the risks of smoking while pregnant?
There are many potential effects of smoking during pregnancy, including:
- Risk of stillbirth
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)[iii]
Passive smoking and pregnancy
What is passive smoking?
Passive smoking is the unintentional inhalation of smoke from other people's tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Passive smoking is also known as second-hand smoking and can occur when you're close to someone who is smoking a tobacco product. Studies show that passive smoking can also have a significant impact on an unborn baby.[iv]
Just like smoking cigarettes yourself during pregnancy, passive smoking can increase the risk of a premature birth, low birth rate and also, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or "cot death").[v] It's also important to note that research suggests that pregnant women who live with a smoker are 6 times more likely to also smoke through their pregnancy or to relapse after the baby is born.[vi]
So, if you have a partner who smokes, or you live with someone who smokes, it would be worthwhile sharing this information with them. You should also take necessary precautions to avoid passive smoking as much as possible.
Smoking - Dealing with Addiction
Many people feel judged when they smoke during pregnancy. Afterall, why would an expectant mother continue to smoke when they're aware of the harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy? However, it's important to understand that smoking can become an addiction, and like most addictions, may be extremely difficult to stop[vii]. Smokers become addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes, but it's the thousands of other elements in cigarettes that are potentially dangerous[viii]. As vapes contain nicotine, but none of the harmful substances in cigarettes associated with diseases, the NHS includes them as a recommended quit aid in their guide to quitting smoking during pregnancy.[ix]
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
There are many forms of prescribed Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), from patches, gum and nasal sprays, to mouth sprays, inhalators, and lozenges. There are some forms of NRT that aren't recommended for use during pregnancy, like Champix or Zyban. Some people find NRT effective, while others revert back to smoking after a time. The important thing is to find a way to quit smoking that works for you.
Switching from Smoking to Vaping During Pregnancy
The NHS supports switching to vaping as a smoking cessation tool.[x]
As the Health Improvement Partnerships Lead at Totally Wicked, I'm involved with many different groups and organisations that help people find the right tools and advice to stop smoking.
Many people mistakenly believe that it is the nicotine in cigarettes that is harmful to your health and to the health of an unborn child. However, this isn't the case.
Cigarettes contain many toxins which can lead to health problems. According to Cancer Research UK:
It's these chemicals in tobacco that can lead to various forms of cancer and other life-limiting health conditions.
How much nicotine is in a vape?
Under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR), vapes can hold a maximum of 2ml e-liquid and this e-liquid must not exceed 20mg (2%) nicotine. This is the equivalent to around 20 cigarettes. Just because the maximum amount legally permitted is 2% nicotine in a single vape or bottle of e-liquid, this isn't to say you can't choose vapes with lower nicotine levels. Our e-liquids are available in strengths of zero nicotine, 0.3%, 0.6%, 1%, 1.4%, and 1.8% nicotine content too. You may find that as a previously heavy smoker you would prefer a 1.8% or 2% vape (they aren't noticeably different). Alternatively, a lower nicotine content could suffice to help you stop smoking.
You could also decide to gradually lower the amount of nicotine in your vape to help you quit vaping altogether. If you're thinking of doing this, make sure you speak with your preferred medical practitioner, such as your midwife or GP, to ensure you receive the right support and advice.
It's very important to be aware that illegal vapes aren't regulated. Which means that they can contain a lot more than the legal amount of nicotine, as well as harmful substances that shouldn't be in a vape. This is one of the reasons why, if you choose to vape while pregnant, you should always purchase your e-cigarettes from a reputable retailer.
Will vaping harm my unborn baby?
E-Cigarettes don't use tobacco, which is the component in cigarettes that produces tar and carbon monoxide when burned. According to the NHS, carbon monoxide is "particularly harmful to developing babies"
According to the NHS, vapes,
The NHS also advises buying vapes from a reputable retailer[xiii]. We pride ourselves as being a respected retailer, as well as providing products, advice and guidance to some excellent smoking cessation services via our Health Improvement Partnership projects.
Can You Vape While Breastfeeding?
You may be worried that vaping while breastfeeding may harm your baby. Both the NHS and other sources say that it is safer to use vapes than cigarettes while breastfeeding. The NHS also states that "If you choose to vapes to quit smoking that it is still better to carry on breastfeeding as the benefits will outweigh any potential harm"[xiv]
The benefits of breastfeeding
You'll have no doubt heard that "breast is best", but are you aware of the many benefits of breastfeeding your baby?
According to Healthline[xv]:
- Breastmilk provides all the nutrients your baby needs
Breastmilk truly is the only food your baby needs for at least the first six months of their life. It contains all the nutrients, in the correct proportions, that your baby needs.
- Breastmilk adapts to your baby's individual needs.
For example, in the first days after birth, your breasts will produce a protein-rich milky substance called colostrum. This very first milk contains absolutely everything your baby needs in their first few days.
- Breastmilk contains antibodies
As a vulnerable new born, your child can be prone to viruses and bacteria. Antibodies in colostrum and the milk that follows can help prevent your baby from becoming sick.
- It can help you stay healthy
Studies show that breastfeeding can reduce a mother's risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. There is also research to suggest that breastfeeding mothers are at lower risk of depression, particularly postpartum depression. [xvi]
- It can save you money
Breastfeeding, for the most part, is free. You may need to invest in a breast pump and bottles if you want to express, but even these costs work out cheaper than continually buying formula milk.
Further Support and Advice
So, according to the various reputable sources and research, the answer to “Can you vape while pregnant and while breastfeeding?” is yes, if you are trying to stop smoking. This is based on current information that suggests vaping is significantly less harmful than if you were smoking during pregnancy. For further advice about stopping smoking while pregnant, it's advisable to speak with your midwife, GP, or other health professional. They will be able to guide you to the relevant smoking cessation services in your area. This can include smoking cessation services accessed via your GP, and other Local Authority or NHS provisions.