By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.
Vaping is often thought of as relatively safe when compared to cigarette smoking. But if you’re trying to get pregnant, is it really a good idea? And what will exposure to e-cigarette vapor in the womb do to your child down the line? In this article, I’ll talk about the research on what e-cigarettes do to fertility and whether they’re safe for your unborn child.
Does Vaping Reduce Your Chances of Getting Pregnant?
There’s not a lot of research on vaping and fertility, but the studies that have been done are concerning. First, there’s the nicotine. Studies have shown the levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes is similar to that of conventional cigarettes.1 Nicotine exposure in male mice is known to damage sperm and can lead to behavioral problems in multiple generations of descendants.2
However, scientists at the University College London found that it’s not only the nicotine in e-cigarettes that poses a risk of infertility.3 The flavoring in “vape juice” can also interfere with your ability to conceive. The scientists found that vape juice, which contains water, food grade flavoring, nicotine, propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin can damage sperm.3 Bubblegum-flavored juice harmed cells in the testicles.3 Cinnamon-flavored vape juice weakened sperm motility, the ability of sperm to move and swim toward the egg.3
Another study by researchers at Baptist University in Hong Kong found that e-cigarettes contain a toxin that is associated with infertility and interferes with a fetus’ normal development.4 They found toxic, carcinogenic chemicals, including formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), were present in the e-cigarettes they tested. The PAH level in e-cigarettes was at least one million times higher than what a person would breathe in while standing next to a busy road in Hong Kong. Flame retardants (poly-brominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs) were also detected in the e-cigarettes. Inhalation of PBDEs is linked to reduced fertility, impaired fetal development, thyroid problems, and cancer.
Additionally, a study in rodents found that when mice were exposed five times per week to e-cigarette vapor, it resulted in a significant delay in the animals having their first litter.5 In that same study, exposure of female mice in early pregnancy to e-cigarette vapor led to significantly reduced embryo implantation.5 Embryo implantation is the point of pregnancy where the embryo attaches to the uterus wall, allowing the fetus to receive oxygen and nutrients from the mother.
Will Vaping During Pregnancy Harm My Baby?
We need to provide truly fertile ground to grow the next generation. If we took two sunflower seeds from a pristine lush garden and planted one seed in the crack of an urban parking lot and planted the other seed in a nutrient-rich and tranquil pasture, each seed, though identical, would grow differently. It’s the difference between surviving and thriving.
Studies performed on animals show that vaping during pregnancy may keep your baby from thriving in early life and beyond. These studies show that exposing fetuses to e-cigarette smoke while in the womb leads to restricted growth in early life and problems with the immune system, neural development, and lung and cardiac function.6,7
Hyperactivity and reduced short-term memory in offspring after birth were observed in one study where mice were exposed to e-cigarette smoke during pregnancy.8 What’s more, the e-cigarette exposure caused epigenetic changes in the babies.8 Epigenetics acts like a switch that turns genes on and off. Epigenetic changes can lead to a variety of health problems, not only in offspring, but in their children as well.
E-Cigarettes Are a Risk Both Before and During Pregnancy
If you are trying to get pregnant, all the evidence to date suggests that vaping will interfere with that goal. And if you vape while pregnant, you are putting the postnatal health of your child at risk. I strongly urge you to seek the support of your family, friends, and support groups, in order to give up smoking of any kind—including vaping—before and during pregnancy
About Dr. Meletis
Dr. Meletis is an internationally recognized naturopathic physician, an accomplished author, and respected educator in the field of natural medicine. Dr. Meletis was honored as a ‘Naturopathic Physician of the Year’ by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians for his commitment to education and helping those in need. His mission is simply, “changing the world’s health, one person at a time”.
He has authored 14 books on subjects ranging from natural medicine interactions to fertility enhancement and has published over 80 articles in publications such as Natural Health andNatural Pharmacy. Dr. Meletis has served as the Dean of Naturopathic Medicine and Chief Medical Officer for the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) for seven years and later as the school’s Senior Science Officer. He sits on several medical advisory boards and has worked with Oregon Health and Science University on a grant from the National Institute of Health to further educate MD graduates on natural medicine.
- UCL News. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2017/feb/e-cigarettes-safer-smoking-says-long-term-study Accessed October 16, 2019.
- McCarthy DM, Morgan TJ Jr, Lowe SE, et al. Nicotineexposure of male mice produces behavioral impairment in multiple generations of descendants. PLoS Biol. 2018 Oct 16;16(10):e2006497.
- Is vaping bad for your health? Professor Robert West (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health) discusses the different effects which vaping and smoking have on the body. 17 September 2018. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/headlines/2018/sep/vaping-bad-your-healthAccessed October 16, 2019.
- Parry L. Daily Mail. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3470372/Could-e-cigarettes-leave-INFERTILE-Devices-contain-flame-retardants-cancer-causing-toxins-disrupt-fertility.html Accessed October 16, 2019.
- Wetendorf M, Randall LT, Lemma MT, et al. E-Cigarette Exposure Delays Implantation and Causes Reduced Weight Gain in Female Offspring Exposed In Utero. J Endocr Soc. 2019 Oct;3(10):1907-16.
- Orzabal MR, Lunde-Young ER, Ramirez JI, et al. Chronic exposure to e-cig aerosols during early development causes vascular dysfunction and offspring growth deficits. Transl Res. 2019 May;207:70-82.
- Whittington JR, Simmons PM, Phillips AM, et al. The Use of Electronic Cigarettes inPregnancy: A Review of the Literature. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2018 Sep;73(9):544-9.
- Nguyen T, Li GE, Chen H, et al. Maternal E-Cigarette Exposure Results in Cognitive and Epigenetic Alterations in Offspring in a Mouse Model. Chem Res Toxicol. 2018 Jul 16;31(7):601-11.