Is marijuana use harmful during pregnancy?

Because marijuana is neither regulated nor evaluated by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) there are few hard data available, and no oversights in place other than individual states’ regulations. The FDA has not approved medical marijuana for treatment of any medical condition, yet many states have made marijuana use, both medicinal and recreational, legal.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control): “Marijuana use during pregnancy can be harmful to the baby’s health. The chemicals in marijuana (in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) pass through the mother’s system to her baby and can harm the baby’s development”.

More research is needed to understand better how marijuana may affect both the mother and her baby during pregnancy. Because of this, the CDC recommends that pregnant women should not use marijuana.

ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) states that “women reporting marijuana use should be counseled about concerns regarding potential adverse health consequences of continued use during pregnancy.”

Some of the potential health effects are:

• The use of marijuana during pregnancy may disrupt normal brain development.
• Some research shows that marijuana use during pregnancy can cause health problems in newborns, such as low birth weight.
• More research shows that breathing marijuana smoke can also be bad… for both mother and child… as it has many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke, and may increase the chances of developmental issues in the baby.
• In some studies, the incidence of stillbirth is higher in women who use marijuana during pregnancy.

Studies using animals show that cannabis (marijuana) in utero may disrupt normal brain functions and activity. Although there are limited data on marijuana use during pregnancy (as human testing cannot always be relied on due to the use of other substances besides marijuana, plus lifestyle issues) some of the trends indicated are worrisome, which is why both the CDC and ACOG recommend that pregnant women should not use marijuana.

Can marijuana use during pregnancy cause problems after the baby is born?

• There has been research that suggests marijuana use during pregnancy may make it difficult for the child to pay attention or to learn, but these issues may only become noticeable when the child grows older.
• Marijuana use may affect a mother’s ability to care for her baby properly.
• Secondhand smoke from marijuana may be as harmful as secondhand cigarette smoke, especially for young children.

Does using marijuana affect breastfeeding?

• The chemicals in marijuana can be passed to the baby through breast milk, and because THC is stored in fat and released slowly over time, the baby could still be exposed even after the mother stops using marijuana.
• Data on the effects of marijuana through breastfeeding are limited and sometimes conflicting; but to be safe, the CDC and ACOG recommend avoiding marijuana use, which would limit the potential risk to the baby.

Is chewing marijuana safer than smoking it?

The body processes edible marijuana differently than through smoking it because it needs to be digested; it takes longer for the effects to be felt. This can cause someone to overdose by eating more in order to feel the effects more quickly.

Is marijuana effective against morning sickness?

There is no evidence that marijuana is helpful in managing morning sickness. Diet and lifestyle changes may help, and there also is a drug approved by the FDA to treat it. Talk to your health professional if you feel you need help.

Bottom Line

Marijuana is an unregulated substance. Although the data available are scarce, what is available is alarming enough that both the CDC and ACOG recommend that a pregnant woman should not use marijuana, due to the possible risks to both herself and the baby.