What’s the big deal with Marijuana & Pregnancy?

In December 2017, JAMA conducted a study evidencing the rise of marijuana use among pregnant mothers in Northern California. In fact, national trends have been on the rise since the 1990s. Most women were shown to use marijuana as a means to help relieve morning sickness. Others may use it to help relieve stress and anxiety. But what is marijuana exactly?
Marijuana is the dried parts of the plant deriving from the Cannabis family, most commonly Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica. Marijuana can be consumed in many forms such as smoking and adding it to foods. Importantly, Cannabis contains a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient that can potentially affect your pregnancy and your baby’s development.

How does marijuana affect the baby?

During pregnancy, everything you consume can impact your child. We choose foods that are nutritious, stay hydrated, and engage in regular physical activity, so that our children may grow appropriately. Marijuana can disrupt that.
THC readily crosses the placenta and is slowly cleared from the fetus and even more slowly from the mother.

Some studies have linked marijuana use with miscarriage, birth defects, and developmental delays.

It has also been shown that smoking marijuana can produce more potentially dangerous compounds than even cigarette smoking. In fact, marijuana contains many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke. Marijuana use can also decrease oxygen supply to the baby because it can increase carbon monoxide in your own blood!
While there is limited information on marijuana and fetal development, pregnancy is such a critical time for the development and growth of your child. Marijuana may introduce potential risks that can interfere that growth.

What are the current recommendations?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology or ACOG recommends that pregnant women refrain from marijuana use. This is partially due to insufficient data to completely determine the effects of marijuana during pregnancy and therefore, it is best to air on the side of caution. The other part may refer to its similarity to the physical effects of cigarette smoking, and that purchasing marijuana from any source means you have no guarantee of what’s in it.
As for recommendations for after birth:  THC loves fat and is stored in fatty cells of the body. Breastmilk is an exceptionally fatty substance and thus would explain why marijuana crosses so easily into breastmilk. At this point, researchers do not have much information about the effects on lactation and breastfeeding.
Since breastmilk is one of the best things we can give to our growing babies, anything that may tamper with it may not be worth the risk. So, it is best to refrain from marijuana when and if you plan to get pregnant or breastfeed.

What about medical marijuana?

While we may have heard conflicting things regarding medical marijuana use and as its legalization begins to change, ACOG still currently recommends discontinuing its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Because medical marijuana is neither regulated nor evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are no standards associated with it.
If you feel that you need to take it to help manage the symptoms of pregnancy, it is important to consult your healthcare provider for the best course of action.
If you are using marijuana to alleviate morning sickness, again, ask your healthcare provider for other options or take a look at our Natural Remedies for Morning Sickness article!
To view our article on the subject and to view our sources, please check out Marijuana and Pregnancy.