Marijuana, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding
The recent legalization of marijuana has raised questions about potential harm from use during pregnancy. Is it safe to smoke, vape, or ingest the chemicals in marijuana while pregnant? While more research needs to be done, both the Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women do not use marijuana in any form.
Why? Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the chemical compound in marijuana known for psychoactive effects — crosses through the placenta and into the developing fetus’s brain. This can negatively affect development inside and outside of the womb.
Like ginger tea, THC is thought to relieve nausea during pregnancy. However, unlike ginger, THC is not considered safe for pregnant women and should be avoided as a treatment for morning sickness. (If you are having problems with morning sickness, speak to your doctor about how to relieve it.) According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to higher rates of tremors in newborns and can cause lower birth weights, neural tube defects, and premature births. Other studies have shown that marijuana use during pregnancy can double the risk of stillbirth.
Marijuana use before pregnancy affects hormones and may have an adverse impact on fertility. Its use during pregnancy may also impact your child’s development: According to University of Pittsburgh studies, cannabis use during pregnancy leads to a greater risk of behavioral and learning difficulties in children. Prenatal marijuana use may affect children’s problem solving skills, attention, and memory. While study results vary, prenatal marijuana use may also put children at higher risk for mental illness and substance abuse later in life.
Ingesting marijuana while breastfeeding may be just as harmful as prenatal marijuana use. Although studies are limited, the body stores THC in body fat for weeks at a time. As a result, THC can still be passed to a baby through breastfeeding even if marijuana has not been used for a long time.
While there is still a great need for further research into marijuana use and its impact, a growing body of evidence suggests that avoiding it during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and beyond can contribute to the health and wellbeing of your child.
For more information, visit cdc.gov/marijuana/factsheets/pregnancy.htm.