E-Cigarettes and Pregnancy
Like any other new product on the market, e-cigarettes must undergo a bombardment of testing to study every aspect of how they could affect the human body. One such area is what effects e-cigarettes have on pregnant women and developing fetuses.
Before looking at e-cigarette use and pregnancy, it is important to have an understanding about the underlying concern surrounding the issue: fetal exposure to nicotine.
Prenatal Nicotine Effects
In the last 25 years, the rate of prenatal smoking has dropped substantiallyâ€”18.4% of pregnant women smoked in 1990, but as of 2010 this percentage was down 12.3. This decline is, in part, contributed to tougher tobacco laws and the recent development of smoking substitutions.
That fewer pregnant women are picking up their cigarettes is a huge accomplishment because, due to the stances taken by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the U.S. Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guidelines, most of tobacco reduction would be due to "cold turkey" cessation methods.
E-cigarettes are one such popular tobacco cessation method these days. However, according to both of the previous agencies and the FDA, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is not the recommended cessation method for expectant mothers. The FDA classifies NRTs as category D drugs, meaning they're known to cause birth defects.
Pregnant women are cautioned to refrain from ingesting nicotine in any form. Nicotine works to constrict blood vessels; in the case of pregnant women, this constricting can harm the placenta. Damage to the placenta can affect the oxygen supply a growing fetus receives. In addition, tobacco cigarette smoke contains roughly 4,000 chemicals, many of which are known carcinogens.
Where Do E-Cigarettes Stand?
E-cigarettes are relatively new and therefore not enough studies have been performed to know any long lasting effects of using them. Additionally, since the FDA still hasn't taken over regulating e-cigarettes, there is the danger of sub-par devices circulating the market.
Because of the lack of oversight, there is also the danger that a pregnant women will order what she believes is a 0mg nicotine e-liquid, but instead end up vaping an inferior liquid that actually contains small amounts of nicotine. For an unborn fetus, this has the potential to be life threatening.
Moreover, a WebMD found that over 40% of pregnant women believe electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional. This could lead to these women purchasing unsafe e-cigarettes (i.e. those sold by disreputable companies).
Purchasing e-liquids and e-cigarettes that are well-designed and sold by reputable companies are another story entirely. However, even with this knowledge, vaping groups like the American Vaping Association recommend women abstain from using e-cigarettes altogether while pregnant just to be on the safe side.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, has stated:
"All nicotine use during pregnancy should be avoided, whether the source be cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or nicotine replacement therapy products like nicotine gum and patches. Indeed, studies have shown that nicotine replacement therapy use by pregnant women is tied to low birth weight and preterm birth."
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