Study finds vaping during pregnancy no better than smoking cigarettes

10 July 2023

By Penelope Clifton, Body and Soul

If you needed another reason to ditch the vape, researchers have found that e-cigarettes are no better than smoking standard cigarettes when it comes to expectant mothers.

It has long been known that smoking cigarettesduring pregnancy is not only detrimental to the mother, but it’s also bad for the baby’s health.

And while some women trade their cigarettes for a vape thinking it’s a healthier alternative, researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have confirmed that e-cigarettes are equally as harmful to the foetus.

The study, which was published in Developmental Biology, suggests that vaping nicotine damages foetal bone and lung development.

Emily Bates, an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine wants vapers to treat the smoking aid as they would cigarettes. In short, put down the vape if you want a healthy baby.

 “Pregnant women are increasingly turning to vaping with electronic cigarettes as a perceived safer alternative to cigarettes,” she said.

“However, nicotine disrupts fetal development, suggesting that, like cigarette smoking, nicotine vaping may be detrimental to the foetus. Nicotine passes through the placenta to fetal circulation where it can accumulate to reach higher levels than in the maternal plasma. This disrupts the development of multiple organs and systems.”

Bates and her team found that even small amounts of vapour inhibit foetal growth, after running tests on animal models.

Even if a pregnant woman is passively puffing on vapes, or inhaling second-hand vapour, there could be consequences.

“Those that were exposed to vaping ended up with smaller and shorter bones during their development. Additionally, we found that the nicotine impacts which genes are turned on in the foetus’s lung,” Bates added.

This new, worrying find is just another to add to why vaping shouldn’t be considered a “healthier” alternative. Research into vaping is also relatively young, given the tool is fairly new to the market.

Bates expects that moving forward, more discoveries about the effects of vaping on pregnant women and their unborn children will only escalate.

“The popularity of vaping among young people, the addictive nature of nicotine, and the lack of perceived risk suggest that vaping during pregnancy will likely increase over time,” Bates said.

“Identifying the effects of maternal e-cigarette exposure on foetal development is essential to inform public health messaging and protect the health of the baby.”

This new development comes off the back of research that found making a baby could also be troublesome for vapers.

According to GP for men’s health clinic Pilot, Dr Vincent Mok, nicotine can cause struggles in the bedroom, specifically erectile dysfunction (ED). Now, if the male can’t get it up, what hope is there of falling pregnant?

“For male erectile function, we need the ‘software’ and ‘hardware’ to work in harmony. For example, nicotine in cigarettes can increase anxiety which can affect the mind, i.e., the software,” he said.

“We know that 61 per cent of males over 45 years old are affected by mild, moderate or complete erectile dysfunction. Another study showed that around 23 per cent of men 35 to 85 years suffered from erectile dysfunction. An American survey showed that nicotine vaping doubles the risk of erectile dysfunction in males 25-65 years old. Putting this together, we can say that erectile dysfunction is common, and affects younger and older men, while vaping increases the risk,” Dr Mok added.


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