Health Effects of Marijuana During Pregnancy

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana is the most commonly used psychotropic drug in the United States.  Cannabis is a flowering plant with 3 main species: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis which all can occur naturally in our environment.  Often times there is a connection between naturally occurring plants in our environment and thus using those plants to be a low risk to our health.  More and more states have legalized the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana over the past decade and we have seen marijuana use increase with young people.  In conjunction with this trend, marijuana has also been the most widely used illegal drug during pregnancy.  Many pregnant mothers view marijuana use as safe and as a natural way to treat nausea, vomiting or morning sickness.  They report marijuana to work in reducing these symptoms during pregnancy.  But the real question is if so many pregnant mothers are using marijuana, how safe is marijuana during pregnancy?

According to  SAMHSA, marijuana use during pregnancy can actually be harmful to a baby’s health and cause many serious problems, including stillbirth, preterm birth, and growth and development issues.  No amount of marijuana has been proven safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its first official guidelines, advising women who are pregnant or nursing to avoid marijuana use because it isn’t safe for them or their children.

Whether smoked, eaten in food (edibles), or vaped, marijuana is stronger than ever before, which makes use during pregnancy especially risky for a developing baby’s health. Marijuana contains nearly 500 chemicals, including the mind-altering compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These chemicals can pass through a woman’s placenta to her baby during pregnancy. Studies show that marijuana use during pregnancy may be harmful to a baby’s health and cause a variety of problems, including:

Fetal growth restriction (when a baby doesn’t gain the appropriate amount of weight before birth).

A greater risk of stillbirth

Preterm birth (being born before 37 weeks of gestation)

Low birth weight

Long-term brain development issues affecting memory, learning, and behavior

Marijuana in Breast Milk

Marijuana use while breastfeeding also comes with risk of harms to the baby. THC and other chemicals in marijuana can be passed to a baby through breast milk, increasing the baby’s risk for problems with brain development.

Getting Help

Talk to your doctor, midwife, or other provider to learn more about the risks of marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as safe treatment options for morning sickness. Also, if you choose to quit using marijuana during your pregnancy and are struggling there are resources out there for help such as SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889, or use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.

References and Relevant Resources

About Ted Izydor - LPC, CSAC, ICS, MINT 62 Articles
Ted Izydor holds both a Master of Counseling Psychology and Master of Business Administration. With a distinguished 20-year clinical therapy background as a mental health and addiction counselor, Ted offers techniques, strategies and approaches that produce changes. As the founder of Full Potential Coaching and Consulting of Wisconsin, he devotes himself to sharing this knowledge and insight to people seeking more fulfilling, happier and healthier lives.

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