Nicotine is an alkaloid obtained from the dried leaves of the tobacco plant, present in cigarettes, nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patches, inhalers, nasal sprays), traditional herbal remedies and insecticides.
Nicotine is highly toxic by ingestion, inhalation and skin contact. The fatal dose of nicotine has been estimated to be as little as 40mg in an adult, however ingestion of just a few milligrams can cause severe symptoms. There are no reported cases that specifically describe nicotine poisoning during human pregnancy.
There is a wealth of data concerning fetal effects of tobacco exposure during pregnancy, however nicotine is one of many harmful components of cigarette smoke and the dose of nicotine delivered via smoking is lower than in a poisoning scenario. Please consult the specific UKTIS documents on tobacco and nicotine replacement therapy in pregnancy for further details.
Following nicotine poisoning in a pregnant patient, maternal toxicity is likely to be a major determinant of fetal risk. Given that chronic low-level nicotine exposure is associated with adverse fetal effects, it is possible that nicotine poisoning in the absence of severe maternal symptoms may also be associated with a teratogenic effect. Given the paucity of data regarding exposure in this context, it is not possible to predict the likelihood of an adverse effect on fetal development. In all cases of nicotine poisoning in pregnancy, extended maternal and fetal monitoring may be warranted. Discussion with UKTIS is recommended in all cases.
This is a summary of the full UKTIS monograph for health care professionals and should not be used in isolation. The full UKTIS monograph and access to any hyperlinked related documents is available to NHS health care professionals who are logged in.
If you have a patient with exposure to a drug or chemical and require assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment, please telephone UKTIS on 0344 892 0909 to discuss the case with a teratology specialist.
If you would like to report a pregnancy to UKTIS please click here to download our pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.