By Tracy Cabrera
REALIZING the dangers of smoking while being pregnant, many women addicted to nicotine have turned to e-cigarettes because they believe this alternative are safer for themselves and even for their unborn babies.
However, scientists are telling us now that electronic cigarettes used for vaping may be no safer than tobacco for expectant mothers because there still are risks of exposing their babies to nicotine through the chemicals used in these gadgets.
Psychologists at Durham University found that babies of mothers who smoked e-cigarettes during pregnancy displayed similar abnormal reflexes to infants whose mothers smoked traditional cigarettes and they warned that nicotine could be the culprit.
Abnormal reflexes occur when a baby does not grasp a finger with their hand or is not startled if the hand supporting their head is suddenly removed.
The study conducted by the Durham researchers also found that higher amounts of nicotine correlated with less ‘motor maturity’ in babies, such as how floppy or rigid a child is when held. Thus they recommended more study into the effects of nicotine – which is found in both cigarettes and some vaping products—and warned it could have ‘devastating effects’ on the brain.
Based on current National Health Service guidance, e-cigarettes are “likely to be much less harmful to a pregnant woman and her baby,” but it recommends pregnant mothers to use nicotine replacement products, like patches or gum, to wean themselves off tobacco while pregnant.
The Durham study analyzed the neurobehavioral patterns of 83 one-month-old babies including 44 born to mothers who did not smoke during pregnancy, 29 who smoked cigarettes and ten who smoked e-cigarettes.
While the sample size of the study is small, the results suggest nicotine is harmful to a fetus regardless of how it is ingested.
Suzanne Froggatt, the study’s lead author, said: “Nicotine can cause widespread negative effects on the central nervous system, subsequently affecting brain development, with animal studies indicating the devastating effects within the brain.”
She added that although e-cigarettes might expose the mother to fewer toxins than cigarettes, given the uncontrolled amount of nicotine in e-cigarette consumption and the effects on the fetus which can be seen post-natally, it is suggested that mothers should not be encouraged to use e-cigarettes during pregnancy.