Your Questions About Vaping and Fertility – Answered
Reviewed by Dr. Lisa Czanko MD, MPH
It’s not exactly breaking news that smoking cigarettes can have harmful effects on pregnancy. After all, smoking can reduce fertility and make it more difficult to conceive. It can also impact hormone production and hurt the reproductive system. And if you smoke while pregnant, you can be at higher risk for pregnancy complications and negative outcomes for the baby, like low birth weight, underdeveloped lungs, and more.
So yeah, smoking is a known no-no for those trying to conceive. But for those trying to kick the habit or at least mitigate the wide-reaching damaging effects of smoking, e-cigarettes provide a smokeless way to inhale nicotine. And worryingly, research shows that e-cigs are especially popular among teenagers and young adults (who are in their prime reproductive years).
However, while e-cigarettes may seem like a solid substitution for traditional cigs, it’s important to know how vaping affects fertility if you’re trying to conceive or plan to in the future.
Here’s what the latest research says about vaping and fertility.
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Vapes Are Not Well Regulated
E-cigarettes are new and therefore less studied and less regulated. While the public perception is that e-cigarettes are “safer” than traditional cigarettes, that’s not necessarily the case.
E-cigs are not subjected to the same regulations as traditional cigarettes, which means manufacturers don’t have the same accountability for the chemicals they put in their products. So far, the CDC has found that e-cigarettes can be a cause of lung disease, thanks to the use of vitamin E acetate as an additive or a thickener. There may be more harmful effects of vaping that research hasn’t discovered yet, including effects on fertility.
For these reasons, as of October 2019, the FDA has recommended against using any vapes containing THC or any vapes from an unknown source.
Vaping May Cause Decreased Sperm Quality
In people with sperm, e-cigarettes are associated with lower sperm counts when compared to non-users.
Researchers have also found that certain flavors of “vape juice” can affect sperm and reduce fertility. For example, the bubblegum flavor was linked to damaged cells in the testicles, and the cinnamon flavor was linked to significantly reduced sperm motility.
Vaping May Negatively Impact Offspring
While we wait for more research on human subjects, we can look to animal studies to learn how vaping could potentially affect pregnancy. A 2019 study found that e-cigarette exposure in mice impairs pregnancy initiation and fetal health, and might also cause harmful effects in the offspring (like reduced weight).
Translation: e-cigarette exposure could delay the implantation of a fertilized embryo in the uterus. It’s not clear whether the same delay is present in humans who use e-cigarettes, but if there is a desire to get pregnant as soon as possible, you may want to consider foregoing the e-cigarette.
The Bottom Line On Vaping And Fertility
Even though research is still ongoing, doctors and scientists seem to agree on one thing: it’s safest to avoid e-cigs if you’re trying to conceive or plan to start trying.
And honestly, even if you’re not concerned about vaping and fertility, consider avoiding vaping if you can. The risks to your reproductive (and overall) health are high, and we just don’t know enough about its potential long-term health effects.
Try our new Prenatal Multivitamin!
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health. Smoking and Reproduction Fact Sheet. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health 50th Anniversary. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary/pdfs/fs_smoking_reproduction_508.pdf. Accessed November 5, 2021.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). Let’s Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health (Consumer Booklet). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 3). Outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html
Commissioner, O. of the. (2019, October 4). Vaping illness update: Stop using THC vaping products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/vaping-illness-update-fda-warns-public-stop-using-tetrahydrocannabinol-thc-containing-vaping
Holmboe, S. A., Priskorn, L., Jensen, T. K., Skakkebaek, N. E., Andersson, A. M., & Jørgensen, N. (2020). Use of e-cigarettes associated with lower sperm counts in a cross-sectional study of young men from the general population. Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 35(7), 1693–1701. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/deaa089
Szumilas, K., Szumilas, P., Grzywacz, A., & Wilk, A. (2020). The Effects of E-Cigarette Vapor Components on the Morphology and Function of the Male and Female Reproductive Systems: A Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(17), 6152. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17176152