This week, the media have reported that mothers who use nicotine patches or e-cigarettes (vapes) during pregnancy increase their baby’s risk of SIDS. This is in response to new research published in the American Journal of Physiology.
The animal study from Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth was carried out on rats and aimed to investigate whether nicotine exposure during pregnancy is linked with an increased risk of SIDS.
The researchers found that the rats were more likely to respond negatively to lower oxygen levels when they had been exposed to nicotine in pregnancy, where they were also serotonin-deficient. Seratonin is a hormone that controls mood and is also important for regulating breathing.
It is important to remember that this was an animal study, not a human study. The findings from animal studies can't always be applied to humans.
Current research conducted on women using nicotine replacements – like vapes or patches – during pregnancy has not shown an increased risk of SIDS.
Cigarettes contain chemicals that pass through the placenta and into the baby’s blood stream when a pregnant woman smokes. The same toxins are not found in e-cigarettes or nicotine patches, therefore they are thought to be a safer alternative to smoking.
Watch the effects of cigarette smoke on an unborn baby
Because vaping does not produce smoke it is also a safer option than cigarettes once a baby has been born too. However, the Lullaby Trust advise parents who smoke e-cigarettes not to share their bed with their baby, due to a lack of research about the risk of SIDS. Read more safer sleep advice.
Staying smokefree is the most important thing for the whole family. Although quitting all products containing nicotine is safest for mums, dads and babies, if vaping or other nicotine replacement therapies help parents to remain smokefree then this is a much better alternative to smoking.
We do not recommend pregnant women stop using nicotine replacements, including vapes or patches, after seeing these headlines. Speak to a doctor or midwife for advice and support to stay smokefree.
More information and smoking and vaping during pregnancy
See more information about smoking and pregnancy.
Download the ‘Use of electronic cigarettes in pregnancy’ guide by the Smoking in pregnancy challenge group, of which Tommy’s is a member.
If you’re a smoker and planning a pregnancy, we have information for you too.