Is Smoking Weed Bad for Pregnant Women?

Health

marijuana and pregnancy

Figure 1.https://clearga.org/marijuana-and-pregnancy/

Smoking Weed and Pregnancy

Is it Safe to Smoke Weed While Pregnant?

 Is smoking weed during pregnancy bad?  Research is lacking but unless there are very serious health problems, err on the side of caution as drugs in general during pregnancy can cause low birth weight, premature baby, small head, or still birth (Learn About Marijuana: Factsheets: Marijuana, Reproduction …, n.d.).  Children could be at higher risk of psychotic disorders from prenatal THC exposure.  However, accidental exposure, or light exposure before knowing one is pregnant have not been linked to health complications for mother or child so there is no need to panic if one has incidentally used small amounts of weed.  But it is prudent to stop using marijuana as soon as you realize you are pregnant.

What is the prevalence of marijuana use during pregnancy?

About 3.9% of pregnant women in the US are estimated to have some exposure to marijuana during their pregnancy (Ko, Jean Y. et al. n.d.).  Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in pregnant women.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended against the use of marijuana during pregnancy as it is associated with low birth weight and other abnormalities in the infant.  However, it is not associated with an extended withdrawal syndrome or a cause of a specific marijuana-related disease such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

What are the potential effects of marijuana use while pregnant?

pregnancy marijuana what every-colorado mom should know

Figure 2.https://www.milehighmamas.com/blog/2016/11/10/pregnancy-marijuana-what-every-colorado-mom-should-know/

Marijuana use in pregnancy can affect the health of mother and child.  It is associated with miscarriage, low birth weight, and learning and behavior issues in the child.  Some evidence suggests mothers who use marijuana during pregnancy are at increased risk of placental complications.  The babies born to these mothers may suffer from low birth weight and poor feeding.  They may also have autonomic nervous system instability, problems regulating attention and alertness such as ADHD.  Marijuana use by the mother is also associated with ventricular septal defect which is a tiny hole in the heart which occurs in some fetuses.  These problems continue in the adolescent.  As teenagers these children are at greater risk of suffering anxiety disorders or major depression.  They may not achieve as much as other adolescents.  In adulthood there is greater likelihood of using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.  These problems may not all be directly caused by the mother’s marijuana use but there is a correlation.

What are the potential effects of marijuana use after a baby is born?

marijuana for pregnant women

Figure 3.RUIZLUQUEPAZ/GETTY IMAGES

Marijuana use before birth and when the mother is to breastfeed the child is associated with cognitive deficits in the child and behavior problems like ADHD.  The child is more likely to have lower verbal ability by age four.  These children may also have slowed development of motor skills.  The ability to reason, when tested, is lagging behind that of their peers.  Memory can be affected.  Emotional regulation may also suffer.  These children may be hyper, lack the ability to focus, act on impulse or suffer from anxiety, or defiant behavior.

Furthermore, there is a risk that the use of marijuana by mothers may raise the chance that the child exposed may develop cancers in childhood such as non-lymphoblastic leukemia (and cancer of the blood), astrocytoma, which is a cancer of the brain, and a cancer called rhabdomyoscarcoma which has a high chance of spreading to other parts of the body.

Is it okay for the father to use marijuana?

The use of marijuana by the father is associated with increased risk of childhood cancer such as rhabdomyosarcoma.  It is also associated with SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  So, couples who are trying to conceive should avoid marijuana use.  That goes for both the mother and the father.  Use of marijuana affects cannabinoid receptors in the brain and nervous system and this in turn causes epigenetic changes which are changes in how the genes are packaged and how they are expressed.  These changes can then be passed to the offspring and put them at risk for disorders like cancer.

Smoking Weed and Breastfeeding

Smoking Weed and Breastfeeding

Can smoking Weed and Breastfeeding affect the child’s development?

Cannabis and other illicit drugs are generally not recommended for use by pregnant women.  Cannabis use may be related to damage to the fetus, premature births, low birth weight, and developmental problems. 

How long does THC stay in breastmilk?

THC can stay in breastmilk up to 6 days. (Bertrand, et al., 2018)  Small amounts of THC will be ingested by the breastfeeding child of a mother who has been using marijuana.  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest mothers avoid marijuana, smoked or edibles, while trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding.

Can a pregnant woman smoke weed legally?

marijuana for pregnant women

Figure 4.http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/12/oxytots_and_meth_babies_are_the_new_crack_babies_bad_science_and_the_rush.html

In Colorado, weed is legal, but not if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  However, if it is medically prescribed, you can still use it as a medication but, if someone lodges a complaint, you may need a lawyer to fight charges of child endangerment.  Laws in other states mimic the Colorado law.  Where recreational marijuana is legal, it may still be illegal for pregnant or nursing women.  See our site here to see the marijuana laws for all US states and territories: https://www.ncsm.nl/english/business-law/medical-marijuana-card

Many states have child abuse statutes that prohibit mothers from using drugs.  If a mother gives birth and tests positive for marijuana, a mandatory reporter who may be a health care professional may report her to Child Protective Services.  An investigation may be done and the mother could lose custody of her children and in more punitive states, could even do time in prison.  This is not guaranteed to happen in any state, but it is possible.  To be on the safe side, it is best that mothers do not use marijuana while conceiving, pregnant, or breastfeeding.  If one is unsure or needs medical marijuana for painful conditions or seizures, look into the laws in your state to be sure it is legal for pregnant women to use marijuana.  Also, look into your hospital policies about testing for drugs in pregnant women and new fetuses.

In the state of Alabama, if a child is born and tests positive for marijuana, the mother can be charged with ‘chemical endangerment of a child’.  A resident whose child tested positive for marijuana was arrested in 2016 under this unique law.  Most states do not have such a law; however, mothers could face prosecution under child abuse laws.  This may be more likely if other family members are fighting for custody.

weed effects breastmilk

Does weed effect breastmilk production? 

It is not known if marijuana can impact breastmilk production.  Low levels of thc have been found in breastmilk.  Infants exposed to marijuana in breastmilk may experience poor feeding and slow weight gain.  Motor development and learning can also be affected. 

Stats and Facts:

  • Cannabis aka pot containing thc is the most commonly used illicit drug (sometimes illicit) during pregnancy.
  • The effects of smoking marijuana while breastfeeding have not been widely studied.
  • Up to 5% of pregnant women in the US smoke bud during pregnancy.
  • Frequent marijuana use can cause low fertility in males and females trying to become parents.
  • The main constituent of marijuana, THC, can pass into the placenta of pregnant marijuana users and effect the brain development of the fetus.
  • Marijuana is not known to cause birth defects but can be associated with abnormal cognitive function.
  • Marijuana use has been implicated in increasing the risk of developing childhood cancers (Learn About Marijuana: Factsheets: Marijuana, Reproduction …, n.d.)
  • Marijuana use by fathers may be associated with increased risk of rhabdomyosarcoma (cancer) and also with SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

Misconceptions about marijuana use and pregnancy
Using marijuana during pregnancy is illegal even in some states where marijuana has been legalized, so if you need marijuana for intractable morning sickness or other conditions, be sure to check with your doctor or a law professional about the legality of doing so.

There is no identifiable medical syndrome or severe withdrawal from occasional marijuana use during pregnancy such as is associated with other drugs like cocaine, heroin, and alcohol.  However, this does not mean that marijuana use is totally safe.  It can be associated with miscarriage, low birth weight, and other side effects.

The evidence that marijuana is the direct cause of the harm associated with marijuana use during pregnancy is underwhelming.  Some reviews show that after controlling for use of cigarettes and other drugs, marijuana produces no further harm to the mother or infant.  Some marijuana supporters claim all of the harms associated with marijuana use in the studies are actually caused by confounding factors like tobacco, alcohol, poverty, and other disadvantages found in communities which are studied for marijuana use.  Urban communities may tend to be over-represented in the studies even though they do not consume marijuana at higher rates than more privileged communities.

The takeaway message is, it is best for pregnant mothers to avoid smoking marijuana unless there is significant medical need.  In which case, check the state laws and hospital policies about drug testing to be sure you will not be exposed to unwanted attention by state authorities.

Bibliography

Bertrand, K., Hanan, N. J., Honerkamp-Smith, G., Best, B. M., Chambers, C. D., & Chambers, C. D. (2018). Marijuana Use by Breastfeeding Mothers and Cannabinoid Concentrations in Breast Milk. Pediatrics, 142(3). Retrieved 10 14, 2018, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/08/23/peds.2018-1076.abstract

Learn About Marijuana: Factsheets: Marijuana, Reproduction … (n.d.). Retrieved 10 14, 2018, from http://adai.washington.edu/marijuana/factsheets/reproduction.htm

 Prevalence and patterns of marijuana use among pregnant and nonpregnant women of reproductive age.  Ko, Jean Y. et al.American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology , Volume 213 , Issue 2 , 201.e1 – 201.e10

 

 

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