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Vaping During Pregnancy: The Risks of E-Cigs While Pregnant

Using e-cigarettes can cause side effects for your unborn baby. Learn the risks of vaping during pregnancy and how to quit.
Vaping During Pregnancy: The Risks of E-Cigs While Pregnant
Updated: June 6, 2023
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It’s common knowledge that you should not smoke cigarettes during pregnancy, but what about vaping?

While awareness of the dangers of smoking is more widespread today than ever, many people still consume nicotine in other ways, most commonly through e-cigarettes or vapes. 

One of the main reasons for the popularity of e-cigarettes over smoking cigarettes or cigars among young people is the lack of cigarette smoke and the toxins released by traditional cigarettes.

But the lack of secondhand smoke doesn’t mean vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes. It’s not. 

In fact, vaping during pregnancy can harm both you and your developing baby.

What’s the effect of vaping on pregnancy and newborns? How can it harm a baby once the baby is born?

And if you’re pregnant, what’s the best way to cut the nicotine habit once and for all?

Related: I Drank Before I Knew I Was Pregnant – Is My Baby Okay?


Vaping During Pregnancy Versus Smoking Cigarettes

By now most people know that smoking during pregnancy can cause lifelong health problems for babies, from developmental problems to serious birth defects and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But the message about the dangers of vaping doesn’t seem to have caught on yet.

Nearly one-quarter of the pregnant women in one UK study reported vaping during pregnancy (Bowker et al., 2021). That’s more than twice the percentage of women who smoked during pregnancy nationwide (NHS, 2021).

The myth of e-cigarettes as a safer tobacco product appears to be alive and well.

The Impact of Nicotine on Fetal Development

The problem with tobacco products, whether cigarettes or e-cigarettes, is nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance that comes from tobacco, and it’s present in every tobacco product, whether that’s a cigarette, cigar, or vapor from an electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS).

Both traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine to you and to your baby.

Nicotine, whatever the delivery method, can cause abnormal development of a baby’s brain, heart, lungs, and immune system (Horsager-Boehrer, 2019). It can also cause low birth weight and preterm birth. It can also damage the placenta (Suter and Aagaard, 2020).

And babies exposed to nicotine in the womb, whether that nicotine comes from a smoked cigarette, an e-cigarette, or nicotine patches, are at an increased risk for serious birth defects and sudden infant death syndrome (The Physiological Society, 2018).

At What Stage of Pregnancy Does Smoking Affect the Baby?

At every stage, from before conception to after birth.

Smoking and vaping can make it harder for a fertilized egg to implant. They can affect the fetal development of the heart, lungs, metabolic system, and more. And even after a child is born, the parent’s smoking or vaping can cause lifelong health problems.

Is Vaping Nicotine Safe During Pregnancy?

Is Vaping Nicotine Safe During Pregnancy?
Image Source: Getty Images

No. Vaping nicotine is NOT SAFE during pregnancy.  

Both regular cigarettes and vaping deliver nicotine to mother and child. In addition, e-cigarette liquids contain heavy metals and harmful chemicals (American Lung Association, 2022) that can also harm a developing baby.

What are the Risks of Vaping While Pregnant?

Vaping while pregnant has a multitude of potential health effects for your baby, including:

  • abnormal brain development
  • damage to the placenta
  • abnormal heart development
  • immune system abnormalities
  • low birth weight
  • premature birth
  • thyroid problems
  • elevated blood sugar
  • chronic ear infections
  • lower respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia
  • abnormal lung function
  • serious birth defects
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

In addition, nicotine use can cause miscarriage and complications during pregnancy.

What About Nicotine-Free E-Cigarettes?

One might think that nicotine-free e-cigarette liquids might be a safer alternative. However, one study found that six out of ten “nicotine-free” formulas did, in fact, contain nicotine (Chivers, 2019).

In addition, vaping products contain many other harmful substances, including heavy metals like cadmium, tin, nickel, and lead; chemicals like diacetyl, which is linked to a serious, irreversible lung disease called obliterative bronchiolitis; and the cancer-causing agents' formaldehyde and propylene glycol (a main ingredient in antifreeze).

All of these can transfer to a baby through blood, breast milk, and when a newborn breathes in exhaled vapor.

Can the Use of E-Cigarettes Affect Fertility?

Yes. If you’re trying to get pregnant, vaping can make it more difficult to conceive. 

A study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society has found that vaping delayed embryo implantation in lab animals. In addition, vaping caused neurological, lung, metabolic, and other changes in the animals’ offspring (Wetendorf, 2019).

Can Vaping Nicotine Cause Miscarriage?

It’s well known that smoking can cause miscarriage. This is due to nicotine. At of the time of this writing, no studies have been done on the potential for vaping to cause miscarriage. However, as many vape liquids contain nicotine, it’s wise to avoid using them during pregnancy.

What about Vaping While Breastfeeding?

Although e-cigs don’t involve tobacco smoke, the harmful chemicals in e-cigarette liquids can pass to your baby through breast milk and cause harm. Nicotine can also lower a nursing mother’s milk supply. And the e-cigarette aerosol you exhale when you vape contains harmful chemicals (CDC, 2021) that your baby can breathe in.

Is Vaping a Good Way to Quit Smoking?

Some people start vaping as a way to taper down their cigarette consumption. However, studies have not shown that e-cigarette use helps people to quit. And, depending on the product, some vape liquids may have even more nicotine than cigarettes.

The FDA has not approved vaping as a smoking cessation method (CDC, 2020). And vaping still delivers both nicotine and other harmful chemicals to both mother and child.

How to Quit Vaping in Order to Protect Your Unborn Child

Quitting tobacco now can help to protect your baby from the many possible complications of nicotine exposure. It can also help you to decrease your own chances of lung disease, heart disease, and a wide range of other health problems.

If you’re currently vaping or smoking and want to stop, your healthcare provider can give you information on different smoking cessation methods.

Helplines like 800-quit-now and your local Quitline (CDC,2023) can provide support for people trying to go smoke-free. The National Cancer Institute’s Smoke Free Mom program provides free text support for pregnant people and parents who are trying to kick the nicotine habit (text MOM to 222888 or sign up here).

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can also help you to quit. These methods help nicotine users to taper down their use through patches, gum, nasal sprays, and lozenges with gradually less nicotine content. These should only be used under the supervision of your healthcare provider.

It’s important to note that NRT products still contain nicotine, so even though they are less dangerous during pregnancy than vapes or cigarettes (Taylor, 2020), they’re not ideal. Consult your physician to see if this method is advisable for you.

Smoking cessation medications like Zyban and Chantix can help you to stop using nicotine before you get pregnant, or after your baby is born. They should not be used during pregnancy, however.

Staying Nicotine-Free for You and Your Baby

Vaping is not a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, and it’s not a good way to kick the nicotine habit. Vaping can cause problems for you and your baby before, during, and after pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, quitting nicotine now can help to prevent problems later. It may even save your baby’s life.

Sources +

American Lung Association. (2022, November 17). What’s in an E-Cigarette?

Bowker et ali. (2021, December). Smoking and Vaping Patterns During Pregnancy and the Postpartum: A longitudinal UK Cohort Survey. Addictive Behaviour. 2021 Dec; 123: 107050.

Chivers, E. et ali. (2019, January 13). Nicotine and other potentially harmful compounds in “nicotine-free” e-cigarette liquids in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021, February 16). Tobacco and E-Cigarettes.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, November 27). Quitlines and other Cessation Support Services.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, January 23). Adult Smoking Cessation: the Use of E-Cigarettes.

Horsager-Boehrer, R. (2019, September 17). 4 Myths About Vaping and Pregnancy, Busted. UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Liu et ali. (2021, August 18). Prevalence and Distribution of Electronic Cigarette Use Before and During Pregnancy Among Women in 38 States of the United States. Nicotine and Tobacco Research. 2021 Aug 18;23(9):1459-1467.

National Health Service. (2021, November 23). Statistics on Women’s Smoking at the Time of Delivery, England, Quarter 1.

The Physiological Society. (2018, July 18). Use of Nicotine During Pregnancy may Increase Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. ScienceDaily.

Suter, M. and Aagaard, K. (2020, August 4). The Impact of Tobacco Chemicals and Nicotine on Placental Development. Prenatal Diagnosis. 2020 Aug; 40(9): pp. 1193–1200.

Taylor, L. et ali. (2020, October 1). Fetal Safety of Nicotine Replacement Therapy in Pregnancy: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Addiction. 2021 Feb. 116(2). pp.239-277.

Wetendorf, M. et ali. (2019, October) E-Cigarette Exposure Delays Implantation and Causes Reduced Weight Gain in Female Offspring Exposed In Utero. Journal of the Endocrine Society. 2019 October; 3(10) pp.1907–1916.


Jess Faraday

About Jess

Jess is a qualified teacher who is experienced in teaching different languages and linguistics… Read more

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