Vaping has been found to affect fertility in young women, warns a new study, which states that the use of e-cigarettes during pregnancy impairs metabolic health in their daughters.
The findings, according to Dr. Kathleen Caron from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are clinically important because they suggest that e-cigarette usage before and during pregnancy can influence overall reproductive success and health of the offspring.
“Since there is a large and increasing number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes, these findings shed new light on the potential negative consequences of vaping on early reproductive and metabolic health. To our knowledge, this is first study to state that e-cigarette usage may impair fertility and pregnancy outcomes,” she told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW).
While many young and pregnant women are using e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking—which is known to result in fetal developmental abnormalities—little was known until now about its effects on fertility and pregnancy outcomes, says the research team from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Accordingly, the researchers used a mouse model to examine whether e-cigarette exposure harms fertility and offspring health. "We found that e-cigarette usage before conception significantly delayed implantation of a fertilized embryo to the uterus, thus delaying and reducing fertility (in mice). We also discovered that e-cigarette usage throughout pregnancy changed the long-term health and metabolism of female offspring — imparting lifelong, second-generation effects on the growing fetus," says Dr. Caron.
“By life-long, second generation effects, we mean that the fetuses exposed in utero to the mother’s vaping develop long-term consequences associated with that in utero exposure,” she told MEAWW.
Some electronic cigarette or e-cigarette-related studies have reported adverse effects of vaping on health, while other reports stand for the safety of the products when compared to tobacco cigarettes.
Recent studies have warned that vaping might damage vital immune system cells, and disrupt lung function. For example, a recent study led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine shows that chronic exposure to e-cigarette vapors disrupts normal lung function in mice and also reduces the ability of immune cells that reside in the lungs to respond to viral infection.
These changes, state the study, were observed with vapors without nicotine, warranting more in-depth investigations on the effects the allegedly safe-to-use solvents in e-cigarettes have on people.
Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement recently stating that e-cigarettes can contain harmful or potentially harmful substances, which includes nicotine, heavy metals such as lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing chemicals.
"Youth, young adults, pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products, should not use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes containing nicotine have the potential to help some individual adult smokers reduce their use of and transition away from cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes are not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a quit smoking aid, and the available science is inconclusive on whether e-cigarettes are effective for quitting smoking," says the CDC statement.
According to CDC estimates, as of August 27, 2019, 215 possible cases of severe pulmonary disease associated with the use of or e-cigarette, products, have been reported by 25 states and additional pulmonary illnesses are under investigation.
For the current study, published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, the research team used a mouse model to examine whether e-cigarette exposure impairs fertility and offspring health.
After exposure to e-cigarette vapor, female mice showed decreased "embryo implantation" and a significant delay in the onset of pregnancy with the first litter. "We examined whether e-cigarette exposure impairs implantation and offspring health. Pregnant mice were exposed five times a week to e-cigarette vapor or sham. After four months, e-cigarette exposed dams exhibited a significant delay in the onset of the first litter," says the study.
According to the research team, analysis shows that e-cigarette usage in reproductive-aged women may directly and negatively affect an individual's ability to become pregnant, with potentially "deleterious effects" on the fetus.
"Our results indicate that e-cigarettes negatively influence implantation success and the future health of the in utero exposed fetus resulting in abnormal pregnancy outcomes," the findings state. It further says, "Female offspring exposed to e-cigarettes in utero also failed to gain as much weight as control mice by the 8.5-month mark."
Accordingly, the research team says, advocacy of e-cigarette usage as a safe alternative during pregnancy or in young reproductive-aged women should be interpreted with caution.
"These findings are important because they change our views on the perceived safety of e-cigarettes as alternatives to traditional cigarettes before and during pregnancy," says Dr. Caron.