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Smoking Marijuana During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

girl smoking marijuana close up.

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Studies have shown that a frequency of 1 in 20 women indulges in marijuana use during pregnancy in various parts of the United States. A good number of women are turning to marijuana while pregnant to ease the symptoms which come with pregnancy. CNN reported an escalating 4.2% to 7.1% in the number of women who indulge in weed while pregnant from the year 2009 to 2016, most of the women were aged 24 and below. This study covered only California.
Marijuana during pregnancy comes with a lot of health implications for both mother and child as marijuana contains a wide variety of chemicals such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is extremely potent and could easily find its way into the bloodstream of the pregnant woman and then passed down to her baby. This leads to the question ‘does smoking weed affect pregnancy?’ this guide provides all the answers to your questions.

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Table of Contents

Marijuana Mechanism of Action on Pregnant Woman

Cannabis plant or marijuana is composed of over 400 highly active chemicals which Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the popular psychoactive ingredient, and Cannabidiol (CBD), the exceptional non-psychoactive compound which is renowned for its medical applications.  These chemicals, during weed pregnancy, may find their way into the bloodstream and is seamlessly passed down to the fetus’s blood via the placenta. Smoking weeds while pregnant greatly impairs the functionality of the placenta. The major issues anticipated with smoking marijuana while pregnant are poor neurodevelopment in the child, fluctuations in heart rate, the critical health of the fetus due to the introduction of THC and other toxic components passed through the membrane of the placenta.

Vaping Marijuana or Eating Weed Edibles In Pregnancy – Is It A Safe Alternative?

The need to reduce Marijuana effects and frequent exposure to the harmful byproducts of weed combustion such as carcinogens often leads women to result to other forms of pot use such as dabbing marijuana, vaping, Edibles of the plant, and others. While these methods may exempt certain combustion components present in actual smoking, the main active ingredient, THC, is still present in varying quantities and this can be passed down to the fetus. This makes vaping, eating marijuana edibles and other forms of use just as unsafe as regular smoking pot.

Marijuana As A Treatment for Morning Sickness

The prevalence of marijuana pregnancy has increased over the years as more women are turning to pot for relief from morning sickness and the nauseating effects that plague pregnant women for a certain period.
pregnant woman at the windowSo is it okay to smoke weed while pregnant? No, it’s not. Weed appears to help with the early morning and evening queasiness; however, the effects of marijuana on fetus remain a major problem, and medical doctors consistently warn against it. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports have shown that women who used cannabis during pregnancy were more vulnerable to severe vomiting and nausea.

If a Woman Used Marijuana Before Pregnancy, Should She Continue to Use It?

Pot and pregnancy are still under clinical trials to fully understand the mechanisms. However, one thing is clear; THC crosses the placenta into the baby’s system. THC and pregnancy are never good combinations as THC affects the physiological environment as well as the transport mechanism of the placenta. Studies have proved that CBD in cannabis enhances the permeability of the placenta, leaving it vulnerable to accepting toxins from the pot and any other substance.  Law-related questions like “is it illegal to smoke while pregnant?” often come up, but no, it is not illegal in most of the states where pot was legalized. It is rather a matter of making the right decision for the physical and mental health of the unborn child.

Marijuana Use When Planning Pregnancy

Various studies have shown marijuana and pregnancy comes with health risks for the fetus. The more cannabis in the system of the pregnant woman, the greater risk she exposes the baby to. It has also been found that pot is gradually increasing in potency.

Cannabis And Fertility

There is no clear distinction on the effects of cannabis on fertility, however, women who smoke weed often present with low libido. Chronic smokers experience difficulty in getting pregnant. In women, this decrease in fertility is due to abnormal ovulation. In some cases, weed increases the possibility of a miscarriage due to the exposure of the fetus to various toxic metabolites.
Marijuana has been found to increase the rate of impotence in men.  The negative effect of pot on male fertility may include low sperm count, low sperm motility, and the inability to ejaculate.

Side Effects of Marijuana During Pregnancy

There are innumerable side effects of smoking weed while pregnant. Possible complications include;

  • Disrupts the circulation of oxygen in the blood through the placenta
  • Impairs brain development in the fetus
  • Faintness and increased risk of injury through sudden falls
  • Affects the growth and development of the infant
  • Low birth-weight in the neonate
  • May cause premature birth
  • Increases the possibility of a stillbirth
  • Increases the tendencies of anemia in the mother
  • Impaired cognitive abilities for the child later in life

Cannabis and pregnancy is a highly controversial matter and should be discussed extensively with a medical professional, especially for long-time weed users who may require some support in stopping pot.

Marijuana And Breastfeeding

The legality of cannabis does not mean it is safe. baby cryingMany people are still confused about the issue of pregnancy and Marijuana due to information gaps. The marijuana drug classification as a schedule I drug categorizes pot as a highly potent psychoactive drug with high permeability into the bodily membranes and fluids. As earlier stated there are over 400 active chemicals represented in pot and can be channeled down to the child either during pregnancy or through breastfeeding. Marijuana and breastfeeding expose the baby to various potent toxins that impair physical health and mental development.
Marijuana use disorder has been found, not only in adults but in toddlers aged 3-4 years, as well as extreme hyperactivity and impulsivity. There are also other issues such as cognitive disabilities related to breastfeeding, pregnancy, and marijuana.

How to Stop Using Cannabis in Pregnancy

The high cost of medical marijuana may not be enough to curb the temptation of using cannabis during pregnancy, especially for long-time users. It requires discipline, a good-enough evasive plan, and professional help. Here are a few suggestions to prevent the use of weed in pregnancy:

  • Create goals and enforce self-discipline
  • Delay the urge by a few minutes and the urge may pass
  • Get involved with activities to distract the mind
  • Stay away from social events where the drug is used
  • Eat healthily and exercise
  • Think positive thoughts

If one fails with prevention, they shall seek marijuana addiction help from a medical doctor or a health facility.

Get Professional Help

There are a good number of facilities offering treatment for drug addiction. They offer a wide variety of programs suited to individual needs. An inpatient rehabilitation program allows for 24-hour monitoring and support to ensure that the individual gets all the assistance to enable them to take back their life and complete healing from addiction.

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Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN

About Author

Peter Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.


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