When an expectant woman visits her doctors for that first prenatal check-up, one of the first questions she will hear is, “Do you smoke?” Tobacco use increases a woman’s risk of pre-term labor, low birth weight, and even birth defects. Over the past few years, many pregnant women have switched to electronic cigarettes, in hopes of reducing their risk factors. But doctors are simply not convinced that vaping is a safe alternative during pregnancy, even if ecigs are tobacco-free.
Now a new four-year study from the University of Kentucky College of Nursing will seek to determine exactly how ecigs impact pregnancy. Associate Professor Kristin Ashford and her colleagues received a $2.3 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study how ecigs potentially impact risk factors for birth defects, low birth weight, premature birth, or negative birth outcomes.
Ashford will collect data from pregnant women in three different cities. She will include patients that smoke regular cigarettes, ecigs, and a combination of the two. The pregnant women will undergo blood work during each trimester of their pregnancies to identify biomarkers and the researchers will also collect data to monitor their birth outcomes and any complications.
This will be the first study to focus specifically on ecigarettes and pregnancy. “To date, we do not know what effects these products have on pregnant mothers and their children; however, we do know that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can cause birth defect,” Ashford explained. “We also know that women who smoke traditional cigarettes are more likely to be hospitalized during pregnancy, have preterm birth, and their infants are more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit.”
Thomas Kelly, the Associate Dean of Research at the College of Nursing spoke out in support of the new study and praised it for its potential to influence many women’s lives in the future. He believes Ashford’s study “will fill an important research gap in examining issues impacting electronic and regular cigarette use among pregnant women and the consequences of these choices on fetal health.”
Ashford has worked in the field of pregnancy and childbirth for a number of years, first as a labor and delivery nurse and later as part of a Kentucky initiative to offer smoking cessation programs to expectant mothers.
While we’ve seen many new ecig studies begin in the past year, this one will be especially interesting to follow. Do you believe vaping will have any negative impact on pregnancy and birth outcomes?