One in 20 pregnant women report using marijuana during their pregnancy. Many of them report smoking marijuana while pregnant in an attempt to combat severe morning sickness. (There's no medical evidence it does, and OBGYNs don't recommend it.)
But is smoking marijuana while pregnant worth the risk?
What you eat, smoke and drink during pregnancy and after birth passes to your baby through your placenta and breastmilk. The chemical THC, found in marijuana, also crosses the placenta from the mother to the baby's bloodstream.
Growing research is showing that THC may change the way your baby's brain grows and develops. In fact, the Surgeon General has issued a health advisory on marijuana use among pregnant women.
"No amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe," the Surgeon General's advisory on marijuana use during pregnancy says. "Until and unless more is known about the long-term impact, the safest choice for pregnant women and adolescents is not to use marijuana."
(You can read the full advisory here.)
What Are The Dangers Of Smoking Marijuana During Pregnancy?
Smoking marijuana while pregnant does have effects on your baby. With marijuana use in pregnancy, your baby may also be more likely to have:
There may also be a higher risk of some birth defects, stillbirth or miscarriage, premature birth and admission to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewing more than 660,000 pregnancies found the rate of preterm birth among reported cannabis users was significantly higher than nonusers - about 12%.
"Years of research have proven that alcohol prevents normal development and growth of babies' brains," said Pamela Lynch, MD, who practices family medicine/obstetrics at Franciscan Physician Network Mooresville Family Care. "This was the #1 cause of development delays in children until we had enough proof to convince moms that they were permanently harming their children. You don't want your child to be part of the data showing the negative effects of marijuana in 20 years."
How Does Marijuana Use Affect Your Child?
Children who have been exposed to marijuana may demonstrate lower levels of:
- Verbal reasoning and memory
- Language comprehension
- Executive functioning tasks, including impulse control and problem-solving
Older children and teens who were exposed to marijuana show higher rates of:
- Substance abuse
- Problem behaviors
Other Health Risks Of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy
Smoking marijuana while pregnant also exposes your baby to carbon monoxide (5 times more than with cigarettes), which lowers the amount of oxygen available in the baby's bloodstream.
Second-hand smoke from marijuana may also impact your baby's long-term health.
What Are The Effects Of Smoking Marijuana While Breastfeeding?
Smoking marijuana while breastfeeding is not safe for your baby. THC builds up in breast milk as much as 8 times higher than in a mother's bloodstream. THC is then absorbed into a baby's bloodstream and can be stored in a baby's fat tissue for weeks to months. THC also gets into a baby's brain and can make a baby extra sleepy and not feed very well. It can also cause delays in a baby's development.
Marijuana has also been shown to contain other dangerous substances, including toxins from pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. These chemicals can also transfer through the breast milk.
Is Medical Marijuana Safe For Pregnant Mothers?
Medical marijuana is not regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration nor is it recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Talk to your prenatal care provider about safer options if you are pregnant and are considering smoking marijuana to help morning sickness or if you use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.
Any marijuana use can affect your ability to think clearly, stay alert, make good decisions and respond to the needs of your baby. Marijuana use includes:
- Smoking marijuana, including dabs
- Eating and drinking marijuana in any form
- Using vaporizers
- Eating or smoking wax or hash
- Any other methods, including creams or lotions
Using marijuana can alter your judgment and put you at a higher risk for dizziness, putting you at risk of injury and falls, which can be harmful for the mother and baby.
Other health risks of smoking marijuana include:
- Damage to your lungs
- Lowered level of oxygen in your body, which increases the risk of breathing problems
- Increase in anemia
Need Help Quitting?
Franciscan Health offers a variety of programs to help with those wanting to stop marijuana use. Services include comprehensive assessment, individual and group therapy, and Intensive Outpatient Program, depending on your goals and current needs.
For 24 hour or emergency assistance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
By Robbie Schneider
Social Media Manager