The team of six researchers from the School of Medicine say that “while many mothers are able to quit smoking during pregnancy, a substantial proportion will return to smoking by six months postpartum.”
They say that studies consistently demonstrate a link between smoking and breastfeeding: “The intention to return to smoking is one of the strongest predictors of the intention not to breastfeed and the early cessation (<3 months postpartum) of breastfeeding.”
The aim was to see if vaping could keep mothers away from tobacco and breastfeed, as “the current research suggests that e-cigs are likely safer than smoking traditional cigarettes and their use is proposed as a harm reduction tool for smokers.”
Eight online parenting forums were utilised and users were questioned about their current attitudes, motivators and barriers to using e-cigs as a breastfeeding mother. The team write: “the use of parenting forums is a valuable source of data on what women think about health-related risks and their health-related decision making”.
The study focussed on UK-based forums due to us being a positive and encouraging environment for tobacco harm reduction.
The Royal College of Midwives updated its position on vaping earlier this year, and now says pregnant women should be encouraged to vape to help them quit smoking: “If a pregnant woman who has been smoking chooses to use an e-cigarette (vaping) and it helps her to quit smoking and stay smokefree, she should be supported to do so.”
The research team says that the themes arising from their investigation, “show that women are accessing both lay and professional information on e-cig safety and their use via multiple sources, but this information is not necessarily being interpreted correctly, or it is being met with a degree of mistrust and uncertainty.”
They concluded: “This study has shown women hold a mixture of views on the acceptability of vaping as a mother, but some women are using (or are interested in using) e-cigs in the postpartum period. They are seeking, and need, more reliable information to facilitate their use, especially when breastfeeding.”
“We need further research that considers how women could have opportunities to ask and receive advice, perhaps by opening a dialogue on e-cigs between mothers and health care providers which could potentially reduce rates of maternal smoking and increase breastfeeding rates.”