Marijuana use by pregnant mothers has been on the rise as more and more States legalize medicinal and adult-use recreational marijuana. A recent study suggests that cannabis use more than doubled among pregnant women in the United States between 2010-2017. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that some women report using marijuana to treat severe nausea associated with their pregnancy, however there is no research confirming that this is a safe practice and is generally not recommended. Women considering using medical marijuana while pregnant should not do so without checking with their health care provider. Local marijuana dispensaries are not staffed by medical professionals. Given the potential of marijuana to negatively affect the developing brain, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that obstetrician-gynecologists counsel women against using marijuana while trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy, and while they are breastfeeding.
What to Know During Pregnancy
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that marijuana use during pregnancy can be harmful to a baby’s health. Using marijuana during pregnancy allows chemicals, in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to pass through the mother’s system to the developing baby, which can harm the baby’s development. Eating, drinking, creams or lotions applied to the skin, smoking, vaping, or dabbing can pass these chemicals from marijuana through mother to baby. Human research has shown that some babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancies display altered responses to visual stimuli, increased trembling, and a high-pitched cry, which could indicate problems with neurological development. In school, marijuana-exposed children are more likely to show gaps in problem-solving skills, memory, and the ability to remain attentive.
Marijuana smoke has many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke and may increase the chances of developmental problems in a baby. Some research shows that using marijuana while (or when) pregnant can cause health problems in newborns including low birth weight. Researchers theorize that elevated levels of carbon dioxide might restrict fetal growth in women who use marijuana during pregnancy. Breathing in marijuana smoke can be bad for the mother and the baby.
What to Know While Breastfeeding
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states chemicals from marijuana in any form (including edibles, oils, or other concentrates) can be passed from a mother to her infant through breast milk. These chemicals have the potential to affect a variety of neurodevelopmental processes in the infant.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active component of marijuana, is stored in body fat and slowly released over time, meaning an infant could be exposed to an unknown amount and for an extended period of time. The duration of detection of THC in milk has ranged from 6 days to greater than 6 weeks in various studies.
In addition, some products, including cannabidiol (CBD) products, may contain other contaminants (e.g., pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and fungus) that could be dangerous to a mother and her infant. Data on the effects of marijuana and CBD exposure to the infant through breastfeeding are limited and conflicting. To limit potential risk to the infant, breastfeeding mothers should be advised not to use marijuana or marijuana-containing products in any form, including those containing CBD, while breastfeeding.
If a mother continues to use marijuana or CBD while breastfeeding, she should be encouraged to significantly reduce her intake. To minimize secondhand smoke exposure, marijuana products should not be smoked around babies or children.
Remember that employees of Marijuana Retailers or Consumption Sites are not medical professionals. If you have questions about marijuana use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, please consult your obstetrician or other medical professionals.