Study suggests using a nicotine patch or vaping while pregnant can be fatal to baby

lead image

Your baby is at risk of sudden infant death syndrome if you vape or wear a nicotine patch, studies have found.

Mums-to-be trying to quit smoking usually try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products like a nicotine patch or nicotine gum. Some mummies even resort to vaping. However, a new study suggests that using a nicotine patch in pregnancy or vaping could cause sudden infant death syndrome.

Otherwise known as cot death, the sudden infant death syndrome is an unexpected death of a perfectly healthy baby 12 months and under. This usually happens while the baby is asleep.

Wearing a nicotine patch in pregnancy can prove fatal to baby

nicotine patch in pregnancy

Doctors still aren’t sure what causes sudden infant death syndrome, but new research suggest nicotine plays a part, including nicotine patch in pregnancy. | Source: Shutterstock

This latest research from the Journal of Physiology found that it’s not just smoking, but any form of nicotine can put the baby at a health risk. This includes vaping. 

As vaping and nicotine patch use continue to rise among women, researches feel there’s a need to find out the effects of nicotine to a developing baby.

The researchers exposed rats to cigarette smoke and e-cigarettes, finding that both can cause babies auto-resuscitation or ‘gasp reflex’ to stop working. The ‘gasp reflex’ helps baby to restart breathing when the baby has a lack of oxygen. Cot death has been linked to baby’s failure to ‘gasp’.

They deduce when mummy is exposed to nicotine, it can damage the baby’s central nervous system and in turn, compromise baby’s ‘gasp reflex’. Without a ‘gasp reflex’, baby can’t restart breathing in cases like falling ill and having their nose blocked, or getting covered up and tangled in bed.

All forms of nicotine unsafe

The study surmises that all forms of nicotine, whether in the form of vape or a nicotine patch, aren’t safe alternatives to cigarette to pregnant mummies. Baby in the womb’s exposure to the nicotine may harm baby’s cardiorespiratory function and increase the chances of a sudden infant death syndrome.

Stella Lee, part of the research team, says the research is important to help mums reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome – a tragedy that can come out of nowhere and doctors still don’t understand the causes.

However, Dr Nick Hopkinson, a medical advisor to the British Lung Foundation, says that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is still much safer than smoking. Even if there’s risk from nicotine by itself.

According tot the doctor, clinical trials in the past have shown that smoking pregnant women who were given NRT have better outcomes than women who didn’t use any NRT. He insists that you should speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Stop smoking or vaping during pregnancy

nicotine patch in pregnancy

Smoking leads to many health complications for you and baby, so does wearing nicotine patch in pregnancy. | Source: File photo

You already know that smoking is bad for your baby. Smoking or wearing nicotine patch in pregnancy can lead to baby miscarriage, low birth weight, baby born prematurely or worse, stillbirth. Baby after birth may also have a higher risk of wheezy coughs, hyperactivity and attention problems as well as behavioural issues. Worse still, it increases the chance of baby dying.

The good news is if you quit now, you can protect your baby.

How can I stop smoking?

Just deciding to quit is already the first big step you can take not only for your health, but for your baby as well. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor that you smoke. Your doctor will not judge, and instead help support you with ways to stop smoking for the baby’s health. 

Expert Dr K Vijaya, a member of Singapore’s Health Promotion Board suggests these ways you can quit smoking for good:

1. Drag your hubby along

Encourage your husband to join you on your quest to quit smoking. It’s easier when the person you’re spending your life with stops smoking around you as well. If your persuasion fails, insist that he doesn’t smoke at home. It’s not just bad for you, it’s bad for his baby too.

2. Tell your friends and family

Tell everyone you know that you plan to quit smoking, and ask smoking friends to kick the habit around you. Get in touch with your best friend or loved one whenever you’re feeling the need to light a smoke, so they can help convince you against it.

3. Keep your mouth and hands busy

Whenever a craving kicks in, try putting your mouth to work elsewhere – chewing gum, drinking water or gorging on healthy snacks like veggies and fruits. Or how about kickstarting a new hobby to get your hands busy, maybe knitting?

4. Break the habit

Remember what makes you want to smoke? For instance, if you have to light a cigarette with your morning cuppa, how about getting a big breakfast to go with your coffee. Or if you usually join your colleagues for a smoke after lunch, try taking a walk around the office block instead. The idea is to distract yourself until the craving leaves your system.

5. Consider these other resources

  • I Quit Club (Facebook) – Singapore community of smokers and ex-smokers who share their experiences, as well as consultants to support and advise you to stop smoking and stay smoke-free.
  • QuitLine (1800 438 2000) talk to trained consultants that will provide free advice to support you on your journey to quit the habit

Don’t give up!

Quitting is hard but just imagine what would happen to your baby if you kept on smoking. Maybe keep a picture of your ultrasound on your phone to give you a remind yourself why you’re doing this.

Quitting also helps improve yourself in so many ways:

  • You save lots of money from buying expensive cigarettes
  • Clearer skin and whiter teeth
  • Feel more energised throughout the day
  • Better sense of taste and smell
  • You live longer for your family

Don’t worry if you relapse. Many smokers go through the near-endless process of multiple “quits” before they finally stop. Remember why you’re doing this, and remember that you have the support of your friends, family and your partner in this quest. It gets easier as the weeks go by, trust us.

Treat yourself with a manicure, massage, or some delicious food you’ve been eyeing for every milestone month you reach. You can do it!

Source: NHS

Read also: Newborn dies due to second-hand smoking: A grim warning to all parents

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android, now!

Written by

Nicholas Yong