Vaping While Pregnant: What are the Risks?

By Latifa deGraft-Johnson, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
May 31, 2022

Over 34 million people in the U.S. smoke, with an estimated 8 million adults smoking in the form of vaping. 

Vaping is done with an electronic cigarette (also called an e-cigarette or vape).

Electronic cigarettes are small devices filled with nicotine liquid and heated to create a vapor via an internal battery. 

Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, and nicotine has been proven to cause harm in pregnancies and to babies.

In this article, I’ll explain what happens when you vape while pregnant, the effects of vaping on the fetus, and the differences between smoking and vaping.

I’ll also offer advice on how to quit vaping. 

Vaping While Pregnant

It’s true that vapes and e-cigarettes have fewer chemicals than those found in traditional cigarettes, but vaping chemicals can also be harmful.

There are several dangers associated with vaping while pregnant.

There are also increased risks for infants who are exposed to vaping or nicotine.

Dangers of Vaping While Pregnant

Risks associated with vaping while pregnant are mostly the results of studies involving pregnant people who smoke nicotine products.

These risks include but aren’t limited to:

Effects of Vaping on the Body

Most health organizations in the United States recommend against any kind of nicotine use while pregnant, which includes vaping and e-cigarette use.

One reason for this is the toxicity of the ingredients in vape and e-cigarette juice or liquid.

E-liquids are typically a mix of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and chemical additives for flavoring.

Each of these ingredients has associated health problems such as reduced lung capacity and heart issues.

Many more ingredients used for flavoring have not been tested for toxicity, meaning you could be introducing toxins to yourself and your baby if you vape while pregnant.

Vaping affects many areas of the body, such as the heart, lungs, mouth, teeth, brain, and other organs.

Smoking alone raises the risk of cancer in just about every part of the body.

Outbreaks of lung disease have been linked with the use of vapes and other nicotine devices.

Effects of Vaping on the Baby

The ingredients vaped can harm a fetus while still in the womb.

Inhaling nicotine has the following effects on a fetus:

  • Reduced oxygen
  • Reduced blood in the cardiovascular system
  • Lowered lung function

These can turn into the more severe effects mentioned previously, including low birth weight and stillbirths.

Vaping or blowing e-cigarette smoke near a baby also has consequences.

Second-hand smoke can cause asthmatic symptoms as well as reduced lung function in young children and infants.

There is no safe way to experience second-hand smoke and it always comes with risks. 

Nicotine is also found in the breast milk of mothers who vape, which exposes young infants who breastfeed. 

How Does Vaping Affect the Delivery of the Baby?

Vaping can result in a child being born dead (a stillbirth) and can also result in early delivery (preterm births).

There is a demonstrated relationship between mothers who smoke and a greater risk for child death up to the age of five.

The children of mothers who smoke also make more hospital visits during their first few years of life.

Smoking vs Vaping While Pregnant

Vaping is similar to smoking due to the presence of nicotine and the potential for nicotine addiction.

Smoking has been researched longer and has demonstrated more harmful effects than vaping, but neither is good for your overall health. 

Both smoking and vaping produce higher amounts of plaque in the mouth, and nicotine, in general, is associated with a variety of cancers, including:

  • Neck
  • Gastric
  • Pancreatic
  • Gallbladder
  • Liver
  • Colon
  • Breast
  • Cervical
  • Urinary bladder
  • Kidney

E-cigarettes are addictive and sometimes have even higher levels of nicotine than regular cigarettes.

The aerosols in e-cigarettes and vapes are also associated with both cell death and DNA damage.

Even if you purchase vaping products advertised as nicotine-free, there is often still a small amount of nicotine found in these liquids and the vapors they produce. 

If you’re thinking of using vaping to quit smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes, know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved e-cigarettes or vapes as a method of quitting smoking, and they also recommend against smoking of any kind during pregnancy

There is not as much data available on long-term consequences of vaping in comparison to cigarette smoking since vaping is relatively new, and researchers are still gathering data and reporting as it becomes available. 

How to Quit Vaping

You can begin to quit vaping in a variety of ways.

These are some common ways of quitting vaping:

  • Join a support program
  • Try nicotine replacement therapy
  • Identify and avoid your triggers
  • Practice alternative stress-reducing skills

It takes anywhere from a few hours to three days for inhaled nicotine to leave your bloodstream.

It also takes time for the cravings to also dissipate, and if you’ve been smoking for a long time, these cravings can be really hard to ignore.

If you’re looking to talk with someone about quitting vaping, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support any time of day.

This service also comes in various languages and all coaches on the other end of the line are trained to offer appropriate suggestions and advice.

When to See a Doctor

If you feel that you are developing a nicotine addiction, consider speaking with your doctor.

If you have two or more of the following symptoms over the past year, you may have a nicotine use disorder:

  • Inability to stop using nicotine products (loss of control)
  • Persistent desire/unsuccessful efforts to stop using
  • Cravings (a strong desire to use nicotine)
  • Failure to fulfill major role obligations due to use
  • A great deal of time is spent obtaining, using, and recovering from the use of substances
  • Using the substance despite having social or interpersonal problems caused or made worse by the use
  • Giving up important activities because of substance use
  • Using the substance where it’s physically dangerous
  • Using the substance despite having physical or psychological problem caused or made worse by the use
  • Tolerance (using larger amounts of the substance over time unintentionally)
  • Withdrawal

Get help with all your vaping questions.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can vaping cause birth defects?
Yes, vaping can cause birth defects due to the presence of nicotine, a toxic and addictive chemical. An unborn child is at risk of developmental problems like small head circumference, low birth weight, orofacial clefts, and other pregnancy issues like preterm birth, stillbirths, and sudden infant death syndrome.
Does vaping cause miscarriage?
Tobacco is associated with miscarriages, More research is needed to determine if there is an association between vaping and miscarriages since vaping is relatively new. However, the lack of research does not mean that there is not an association. There are studies that are currently in the data-gathering process of research and the conclusions will be revealed at the end of those studies in the future. One such study is slated to end in 2023. We do know, however, that any exposure to nicotine or tobacco is harmful for both the mother and developing fetus, and can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, and intrauterine growth restriction, among other consequences mentioned above.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Latifa deGraft-Johnson, MD

Dr. Latifa deGraft-Johnson is a board-certified family medicine physician with 20 years of experience. She received her bachelor's degree from St. Louis University, her medical degree from Ross University, and completed her family medicine residency at the University of Florida. Her passion is in preventative medicine and empowering her patients with knowledge.