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Pregnancy Vape Research

New study finds positive views for vaping while pregnant but concerns over social stigma

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Some studies show up to 25% of women continue to smoke for the full duration of their pregnancy. For women who struggle to quit tobacco, vaping offers a genuine route to reduce foetal exposure to carbon monoxide and the carcinogens caused by combustion. A new study analyses the blocks preventing such women making a switch to electronic cigarettes.

Before we look at the study itself, Charles Gardner, PhD, provides a clear statement from the perspective of a developmental biologist: “Nicotine is (not to get too technical) VERY BAD during pregnancy not for the mother but the developing child's brain.  Cigarette smoking is worse.”

The qualitative study was carried out by a team of academics from the universities of Nottingham, East Anglia, Stirling and London. Titled “Views on and experiences of electronic cigarettes: a qualitative study of women who are pregnant or have recently given birth”, it was published on BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

“Maternal smoking in pregnancy is the main preventable cause of morbidity and death among women and infants,” the report states. “Despite nicotine replacement therapy’s (NRT) effectiveness for non-pregnant smokers, in pregnancy it has been shown to be no more effective than placebo.”

One of the key features that leads to poor performance of NRT and, in turn, the difficulty some women face quitting cigarettes, is that nicotine is broken down faster during pregnancy – leading to a greater need for more nicotine.

The report continues: “Nicotine has the potential to show teratogenic effects in the foetus, but there is no evidence for this.” A teratogen is an agent that can disturb the development of the embryo or fetus. Teratogens halt the pregnancy or produce a congenital malformation (a birth defect).

The team points out that while research has been conducted into attitudes and behaviours in the past, the results are tainted by the inclusion of women who were either not pregnant or had not recently given birth.

The team found:

  • Most women were motivated to quit smoking
  • The majority indicated that they believed ECs were a less harmful alternative to smoking during pregnancy, reducing foetal exposure to toxins
  • Most interviewees felt ECs were a cheaper alternative to smoking
  • A few women, having quit smoking, said they were more likely to use NRT than ECs if they relapsed
  • Some ‘never’ and ex-users believed NRT would better support a quit attempt than ECs as regards ‘weaning off’ nicotine
  • Most women expressed feeling uncomfortable (both actual and perceived experience) about using ECs in public during pregnancy - The women said they felt that they would be judged and perceived as a bad mother

The report concludes: “Electronic cigarettes were viewed positively by some pregnant and postpartum women and seen as less harmful than smoking and useful as aids for reducing and stopping smoking. However, due to perceived social stigma, some women feel uncomfortable using Electronic cigarettes in public, especially during pregnancy, and had concerns about safety and nicotine dependence.

These findings highlight the need for both health professionals and designers of Electronic cigarette interventions to provide women with up-to-date and consistent information and advice, as well as considering the influence of social stigma.

There remains a need for investigations of any harms of Electronic cigarettes for the mother and foetus and of the effectiveness of these devices for helping women to reduce and stop smoking during pregnancy and postpartum.”

Previous research was conducted that looked at the impact of NRT on infants born to women who used it. In that study: “Infants born to women who used NRT for smoking cessation in pregnancy were more likely to have unimpaired development. NRT had no effect on prolonged abstinence from smoking but did cause a temporary doubling of smoking cessation shortly after randomisation during pregnancy.”

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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