More and more studies are being released connecting fetal habits with lifelong side effects in children. Smoking during pregnancy is associated with a long list of potential side effects, but researchers have found nicotine to be just as dangerous, even if it is consumed via means other than smoking. E-cigarettes are a popular choice for women trying to quit smoking during pregnancy, but the virtual cigarettes still deliver a hefty dose of nicotine. According to researchers, nicotine increases fetal blood pressure, which could lead to increased risk for heart disease and high blood pressure later in life. 

According to Dr. DaLiao Xiao of Loma Linda University School of Medicine, “We have found distinct links between cigarette smoking or even using nicotine patches or gum and the long-term harm for the child.” Doctors also note that new products delivering nicotine, such as E-cigarettes, are just as likely to cause fetal harm. Pregnant women should avoid nicotine consumption in any form, not just through first and second-hand smoke. 

Nicotine causes the body to produce reactive oxygen species, also known as ROS. ROS are chemicals. These chemicals cause permanent changes in blood vessels that may lead to hypertension and other heart health risks in adulthood. The effects of ROS cannot be changed or treated after birth – it is permanent and lifelong. 

Despite the connection between nicotine and increased risk of fetal harm, doctors continue to advise smoking patients to use alternative nicotine therapies in place of smoking if quitting is not an option. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 harmful chemicals and it increases carbon monoxide in the blood so circulation between mother and fetus are diminished. Nicotine products are the lesser of two evils, but they are not without risk. 

Obstetricians and pregnancy health providers should have contact information for smoking cessation programs in the area. Quitting, even for just the duration of the pregnancy, decreases health risks associated with cigarette smoke and nicotine. 

Source: British Journal of Pharmacology. Daliao Xiao, Xiaohui Huang, Shumei Yang, Lubo Zhang. 21 July 2011.