A recent study suggests vaping during pregnancy helps mothers quit smoking without additional risks to the mother or infant. But medical guidance still cautions against nicotine intake during pregnancy given unknown long-term impacts.
Vaping Linked to Normal Birth Weights
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London conducted a study where pregnant women used nicotine replacements like vaping instead of cigarettes.
They discovered babies born to vaping mothers after the first trimester had normal birth weights, comparable to those of non-smokers. These babies weighed notably more than infants of women who continued smoking while pregnant.
Lead researcher Professor Peter Hajek concluded that "e-cigarettes helped pregnant smokers quit without posing any detectable risks to pregnancy compared with stopping smoking without further nicotine use."
The team believes vaping assists quitting smoking during pregnancy safely based on the findings. However, authoritative medical organizations still warn against nicotine intake during pregnancy.
Study Methods and Key Findings
The researchers analyzed 1,140 pregnant smokers seeking help quitting across 23 hospitals and a stop-smoking service. None already used other nicotine products.
The women could switch to vaping or nicotine patches instead of smoking. 47% ultimately vaped, while 21% used patches.
The study compared pregnancy outcomes between the groups to identify any additional risks from vaping or patches. It monitored nicotine exposure through saliva testing and tracked birth weights and other infant health data.
Key findings included:
Nicotine product users showed no extra pregnancy risks versus non-users.
Their babies had normal birth weights like those of non-smokers.
Vaping reduced nicotine intake compared to continued smoking.
Vaping proved more popular than patches for quitting smoking.
Conflict With Current Pregnancy Recommendations
Public health bodies firmly recommend pregnant women avoid all nicotine, including vapes and patches, due to fetal development concerns.
The Mayo Clinic specifically cautions nicotine alone may impair fetal brain and organ growth. The CDC also links smoking during pregnancy to higher risks of issues like:
Low infant birth weight
So the study conflicts with existing medical guidance around nicotine and pregnancy safety from leading health organizations.
Interpreting the Vaping Pregnancy Study Critically
The researchers suggest smoking's pregnancy risks relate to other cigarette chemicals, not nicotine. But further research remains necessary to verify vaping's safety for pregnant quitters.
Given the lack of data on long-term child health impacts, shifting recommendations seems premature. Pregnant women should still heed standard advice to avoid all nicotine intake until more robust evidence emerges.
Key Study Limitations
Small sample of only 1,140 participants
No investigation into specific pregnancy complications
Minimal data on child health outcomes
Relied on self-reported smoking and vaping behaviors
Didn't examine vaping's safety for women who never smoked
While thought-provoking, the limited study lacks adequate evidence to overhaul current nicotine avoidance guidelines for expecting mothers.
More Research Needed on Vaping's Pregnancy Safety
This controversial study implies vaping could offer a reduced harm option for quitting smoking during pregnancy. But given the restrictions in scope and size, larger scale studies seem warranted before changing recommendations.
For now, pregnant women should keep following standard medical advice to avoid all tobacco, nicotine, and vaping during pregnancy until more conclusive research affirms vaping's safety. While interesting, these tentative findings alone don't warrant overturning current pregnancy precautions around nicotine.