Marijuana and Pregnancy: More Women Are Doing It, but Is It Safe?

marijuana and pregnancy

Creating and carrying a tiny human inside you for nine months is no joke. If you’re not dealing with nausea and swollen feet, then it’s sleepless nights and anxiety over how the hell you’re going to afford said tiny human. That’s why many moms-to-be turn to weed in order to relax or help with some of those growing pains. In fact, marijuana use during pregnancy in the U.S. has nearly doubled over the past 14 years (from 2.9 percent in 2002 to 5 percent in 2016), per a national drug survey. But when it comes to marijuana and pregnancy, is it safe for the baby? Here’s what you need to know.

What do the experts say? Research on the effects of marijuana during pregnancy is limited. But the FDA, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics all advise against the use of marijuana in any form during pregnancy. Experts agree that possible risks include disrupted brain development, babies who are smaller at birth and stillbirth. “Studies show that marijuana use during pregnancy may have negative effects on a developing fetus since THC (the main compound in marijuana responsible for its psychoactive effects) crosses the placenta,” lactation consultant Rebecca Agi tells us.

It’s difficult to collect data on activities that are illegal or stigmatized, but the research that is available is enough to make health providers cautious. One report out of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine looked at more than 10,000 studies published between 1999 and 2016 and found there may be a link between babies exposed to cannabis in utero and lower birth weights. (Although it’s not clear if that’s because of marijuana or due to smoking in general, since smoking increases carbon monoxide in the blood, which in turn reduces blood’s capacity to carry oxygen, which means that not as much is able to get to the baby.) Another recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found an increased risk of premature birth, an increased risk of the infant being small for their gestational age and an increased risk of transfer to the NICU among cannabis users.

One more reason experts advise pregnant women stay away from the drug? Using pot can alter your judgment or make you dizzy, thereby increasing the risk of injury or falling. 

Can marijuana help with morning sickness? Throwing up all day long (because of course it’s not just limited to mornings) is rough. Your mom friend may swear that smoking pot can ease the pain, but per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, no evidence shows that marijuana is helpful in managing morning sickness. However, various diet and lifestyle changes can help, as well as FDA-approved medications, so be sure to bring this up with your healthcare provider.

What about CBD and pregnancy? Nope, sorry. Jarret Patton, M.D., a pediatrician in Pennsylvania, breaks it down for us: “Although CBD has many bona fide medical uses, its use in pregnancy and breastfeeding is not recommended. We know that the endocannabinoid system (the system responsible for metabolizing cannabis components in the body) can be activated in babies. The long-term effects of CBD usage in babies and children are not known. The same link to behavioral and developmental abnormalities that have been seen with marijuana usage can be seen with CBD.” Not to mention the fact that hundreds of unregulated “CBD” products are on the market, which means you never really know what’s in the product you’re using.

Once this baby is out, then can I use marijuana? That depends. If you’re breastfeeding, then no, since THC crosses into breast milk. But even if you’re not nursing, you still may want to abstain, since secondhand smoke can be detrimental to a baby’s health, per the CDC. 

Bottom line: Experts strongly caution against the use of marijuana during pregnancy. If you’re using weed or CBD to manage nausea, stress or sleep issues, speak with your health care provider about healthier alternatives.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...