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New Study Examines How Vaping Impacts Pregnant Women

As the electronic cigarette industry continues to see fast-paced growth, researchers are struggling to keep up. Each month, we hear about new studies underway that will give us a better glimpse at just how ecigs impact public health. Now researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Nursing are starting a brand new trial to learn more about how ecigarettes affect pregnancy.

Associate Professor Kristin Ashford will pioneer the four-year study with help from her research team and a $2.3 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Her goal is to learn whether vaping during pregnancy is harmful and how it impacts birth outcomes. The study will include patients from three different locations: the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, the UK Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, and the Virginia Commonwealth University.

Ashford said she will collect data from three groups: pregnant women who smoke tobacco cigarettes, those who smoke ecigs, and those who use both. Researchers will take blood samples to identify biomarkers during each trimester and monitor for any complications such as pre-term birth or low birth weight.

Previously, there has been no research focused on how vaping specifically impacts pregnancy or birth outcomes. “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 for research at the College of Nursing, said this study is crucial because many pregnant women are using ecigs as an alternative to smoking during pregnancy. Most of these women believe they are reducing the risk to their unborn babies by using ecigs instead of cigarettes.

“Dr. Ashford’s new grant is focused on this conundrum and 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,” Kelly said. “This is an exciting new research area for the College of Nursing.”

Ashford is familiar with the consequences of smoking during pregnancy with previous experience as a labor and delivery nurse. She also works with the GIFTS program, a Kentucky-based initiative to help pregnant women stay tobacco-free to insure better birth outcomes.

This study will definitely be an important one to watch in the future. How do you feel about vaping during pregnancy? Is it a smart alternative to smoking or should pregnant women just quit tobacco cold turkey and avoid ecigs too?

Electronic Cigarettes • April 5, 2017

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