Marijuana and Pregnancy

Marijuana, a dried portion of the Cannabis sativa plant, is also known as weed, pot, or bud. People come to marijuana for the effects on the body, including relaxation, euphoria, and even an enhanced sensory perception. Some pregnant women smoke marijuana too. The active compound of marijuana THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) can cross the placenta and get to the fetus. However, until now the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy are difficult to determine. Keep reading and learn more about the use of marijuana during pregnancy.

Is It Safe to Use Marijuana During Pregnancy?

The effects of marijuana use during pregnancy are difficult to determine, so there is no clear answer for the question. Some studies do link the use of marijuana with premature birth, lower birth weight and even compromised neurological development which has subsequent behavior issues in the children. On the other hand, a few studies claim that there are no relations between the use of marijuana and pregnancy. Women who use marijuana tend to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and even use other types of drugs as well. This makes it even harder to determine the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy.

Though the current studies are not sure of the safety of marijuana, since marijuana has an effect on the mother who uses it, and as its active compound passes the placental barrier, it is logical that it will have an effect on the developing fetus as well. So it advised that once pregnant, the safest way is to avoid any intoxicating substances in general. Sometimes pregnant women do use marijuana for nausea or as a pain relief, but they had better look for other safer alternatives.

If you do use marijuana and are pregnant, it is very important to tell your doctor how much you use and if you are taking other drugs as well. Sometimes you need to take further tests to make sure that your baby is doing well.

What Are the Possible Effects of Marijuana Use on Pregnancy?

Though the relation of marijuana and pregnancy is not clear, it is still important to notice the possible effects of marijuana use during pregnancy on the infants, including:

  • Premature birth – a baby being born before the 37th week of pregnancy
  • Low weight at birth – a baby being born less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Stillbirth – a dead baby in the uterus after the 20th week of pregnancy
  • Withdrawal symptoms – which are characterized by long periods of crying after birth as well as tremor. 
  • Ventricular septal defect – a hole in the heart
  • Abnormal brain development – problems with memory, behavior, ability to pay attention later in life, problem-solving skills, etc.
  • Anxious attacks and depression later in life
  • An increased risk for childhood cancers like astrocytoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, non-lymphoblastic leukemia, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions About Marijuana, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding

1. Are Marijuana Topicals Safe to Use During Pregnancy?

Topical marijuana is considered safe as it is applied locally to the skin. Marijuana topicals are also considered as non-psychoactive substances and the active marijuana compound THC can’t reach the bloodstream of the pregnant women, so it can’t be passed to the developing fetus as well. However, make sure to contact your doctor anytime you need to try any new form of pain relievers. It is not a good thing to start using marijuana topicals on your own. 

2. Is Eating Marijuana While Pregnant Any Safer Than Smoking it?

Most studies so far have focused on smoking marijuana and pregnancy instead of eating marijuana. However, no research until now has shown that edible marijuana is safer. The concentration of THC is almost the same, regardless if you smoke or eat it. Sometimes edible marijuana is even stronger than when it is smoked. It has the same negative effect on your developing fetus just as when smoking a joint. Make sure to avoid both of the forms as long as you are pregnant.

3. Is Smoking Marijuana During Pregnancy Safer Than Drinking While Pregnant?

Neither, marijuana nor alcohol is great for the baby and they should be avoided if possible. Both of these substances are toxic for the developing fetus. However, if you do use these toxic substances, studies have shown that smoking marijuana is safer than drinking alcohol. The effects of alcohol on the developing fetus include long-term neurological and physiological damage of the nervous system. So if you do need to choose between smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, you should choose the first one. The best option, however, is not to use these substances at all. 

4. Can Marijuana Use Affect Breastfeeding?

Marijuana’s active compound THC passes into the breast milk, which means that it will pass into the baby while breastfeeding. THC can remain stored for weeks in the babies' fatty tissue. Babies who are exposed to marijuana through breastfeeding tend to have a slower weight gain, poor feeding, poor suckling and increased tremors during the first months of life. However, more research is needed to determine the exact effects of marijuana use on breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women who tend to use marijuana consistently should avoid breastfeeding their infant.

5. Can I Use Marijuana Around My Children When I Am Not Breastfeeding?

It is advised that not only marijuana and pregnancy should not go together, but also you should stop using marijuana when you are taking care of a child due to its effects on your body. Normally, marijuana can make a person fell very sleepy which has an effect on the way how parents interact with their children. If you are constantly using marijuana, you might not be aware of the basic needs of your child, like when to change a diaper, when to feed your baby or if your baby only wants to cuddle. However, if you do plan to use marijuana, make sure to have someone around you who can take good care of your child safely. Avoid driving when high as well. 

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