Marijuana and Pregnancy
Marijuana is one of the most common drugs women use during pregnancy. One study from researchers in California showed that more women than ever are using marijuana while pregnant.
Researchers examined monthly, weekly, and daily use of cannabis between 2009 and 2017 and found that daily use grew the fastest. Rate of cannabis use increased from about 6.8 to 12.5 percent during the period.
Is It Safe?
While there is no conclusive evidence about the safety of marijuana during pregnancy, some studies have shown that in certain cases, it can lead to stillbirth. Researchers found that marijuana use during pregnancy makes a stillbirth more than twice as likely. Neither the CDC nor the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends using any form of the cannabis plant during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Effect on the Baby
One study found that women who used cannabis once a week or more often were more likely to deliver either preterm or babies with lower birth weight. However, this may not be related to cannabis use. Many of the women in this study also used more alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy.
There are other risks for children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy. One study examined the academic performance of 10-year-olds whose mothers used cannabis and alcohol during pregnancy.
The first trimester of pregnancy is one of the most important for a baby’s development, and the study looked at the academic performance of children whose mothers had used one or more marijuana joints in the first trimester. These children’s performance was often rated lower in evaluations from teachers. They also did worse on the Wide Range Achievement Test-Revised (WRAT-R).
In the second trimester, marijuana use was often linked to underachievement in school and poorer reading comprehension.
More research is needed to determine both the short- and long-term effects of using cannabis during pregnancy as these studies and other similar research work examine the use of cannabis along with other drugs, instead of the effects of cannabis by itself.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the oldest hallucinogenic drugs out there. The Chinese may have used THC as early as the first century in herbal medicine. While there are over 60 cannabinoids, or psychoactive chemicals, found in the cannabis plant, THC is considered the most important one.
THC users take THC through smoking because it is not soluble in water. When inhaled, the vapor makes the user feel more relaxed as well as provides sensory experiences such as a stronger awareness of sound, color, and taste. It can also have some medical uses, such as stopping vomiting. This is why it is often used in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
While there is a lack of research on THC use in general, there is evidence that it can pass through the placenta to a developing baby.
The other risk to an unborn child is that THC is generally taken through smoking. Smoking poses a whole other risk to unborn children, including preterm birth, congenital disabilities in the mouth and lip, and low birth weight. It can even increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
While babies whose mothers smoked marijuana during pregnancy do not generally experience withdrawal symptoms after birth, they may experience other problems. This is because THC may affect the child’s brain development. For example, as the child gets older, he or she may experience developmental problems such as memory problems, poor attention span, trouble in controlling impulses, and difficulties in school.
Many pregnant women may experience other problems during pregnancy, such as pain, anxiety, or depression. CBD oil, which does not contain THC, is a popular natural remedy for these problems. More and more people are using CBD oil as new research comes out affirming its benefits.
However, for pregnant women, the CDC does not recommend using CBD oil because it is from the cannabis plant. Research about CBD oil during pregnancy is inconclusive, though. Most of the research done on products of the cannabis plant during pregnancy focused on repeated marijuana use and not occasional consumption or use of non-THC products.
There are cases of CBD oil products that are marketed as “pure” CBD extract being contaminated with substances like THC, pesticides, and toxic metals. Whether or not CBD oil is safe by itself, it is difficult to verify that it is not contaminated with other toxins.
CBD Oil Alternatives
CBD oil is seen as a natural way to treat problems such as nausea. However, there are other natural ways to cure nausea that are safe to pregnant women. Surprisingly, eating plain foods such as bananas, soups, and crackers can help calm an upset stomach. Expectant mothers suffering from nausea should avoid spicy or greasy foods. Eating or drinking food items with ginger or lemon can also help soothe an upset stomach.
Unlike alcohol or other drugs, the body stores cannabis in the fat cells and slowly releases it over time, possibly weeks or longer. THC can pass through to breast milk. This means that if a breastfeeding mother recently stopped using THC, she could still pass THC to her baby.
Mothers who have used cannabis may breastfeed for shorter periods, leading to slower weight gain and development of their babies. If a baby was already born preterm or with low birth weight, not gaining weight fast enough can present a serious problem.
CBD oil and other cannabis products can also make the user feel sleepy. For mothers who are caring for their child alone, feeling sleepy or somewhat intoxicated can impair the mother’s judgment while caring for her child.
While a few studies have determined that using marijuana during pregnancy is harmless to the baby, many others have determined that it can have long-lasting negative effects on the child. If a woman is finding it difficult to give up marijuana during pregnancy, she can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).