As the stigma around marijuana decreases and legalization spreads across several states, usage is on the rise, even among pregnant women. While it’s becoming more socially and legally acceptable, using weed when pregnant still carries significant risks for the unborn child. This article will discuss the potential dangers of using weed when pregnant, its effects on fetal development, and safer alternatives for managing common pregnancy symptoms.
Using Weed When Pregnant: An Overview
Marijuana, also known as cannabis, pot, or weed, is a drug derived from the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant. It contains over 500 chemicals, including the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which can affect brain function and impair cognitive abilities.
Recent studies have shown that between 4 to 10 percent of women report using marijuana during pregnancy. However, this percentage is likely higher due to self-reporting bias and the increasing social acceptance of marijuana use. Despite its growing popularity, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly advise against using weed when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Marijuana Use Before Pregnancy
Using marijuana before pregnancy can have negative effects on fertility for both women and men. It can disrupt hormonal balance, affect the menstrual cycle, and reduce sperm count. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you’re using marijuana and planning to conceive.
Effects of Marijuana on Fetal Development
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can cross the placenta and reach the developing fetus. It acts on receptors in the brain as early as 14 weeks of gestation and can have lasting effects on the baby’s neurological development. In addition, THC is stored in maternal fat for weeks, prolonging exposure to the fetus even after consumption has stopped.
Cognitive and Behavioral Implications
Studies have linked marijuana use during pregnancy to various cognitive and behavioral issues in children. These include:
- Speech and language difficulties
- Lower math and spelling scores
- Increased rates of attention and focus problems
However, more research needs to be done to determine the full extent of these effects and to establish a definitive causal relationship.
Physical Effects on Newborns
Using weed when pregnant has also been associated with several physical problems for newborns, such as:
- Fetal growth restriction
- Low birth weight
- Preterm birth (before 37 weeks of gestation)
- Anencephaly (a severe neural tube defect)
Babies exposed to marijuana during pregnancy may require care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) due to these complications.
Weed Use and Breastfeeding
THC and other chemicals in marijuana can pass through breast milk, increasing the risk of cognitive and developmental issues in the baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding mothers avoid marijuana to ensure the safety and health of their breast milk.
Medical Marijuana and Pregnancy
In some states, medical marijuana is legal for the treatment of specific health conditions, such as severe pain or cancer. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective medicine for any health condition. No amount of marijuana, even for medical purposes, is considered safe during pregnancy.
Marijuana as a Remedy for Pregnancy Symptoms
Many women turn to marijuana to help alleviate common pregnancy symptoms like nausea, vomiting, pain, anxiety, and stress. While these symptoms are valid concerns, using marijuana is not the safest way to address them.
Nausea and Vomiting
Although some women may use marijuana to alleviate morning sickness, there are safer alternatives available. Talk to your healthcare provider about prescription medications and non-medical treatments for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
Pain and Discomfort
For pain relief during pregnancy, consider options such as massage, physical therapy, and pregnancy bands, which have proven to be effective and safe for both mother and baby.
Anxiety and Stress
Pregnant women are at a higher risk for depression than the general population, but marijuana is not a treatment for this condition. Instead, explore alternatives like counseling, behavioral therapy, and safe prescription medications.
Quitting Marijuana During Pregnancy
If you’re using marijuana and planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant, it’s essential to seek help to quit. Talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options and support resources. Some organizations that can assist you include:
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Mother to Baby
Using weed when pregnant carries significant risks for the developing fetus and is not worth the potential harm it may cause. It’s crucial to discuss your marijuana use with your healthcare provider and explore safer alternatives for managing pregnancy symptoms. By avoiding marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you can give your baby a healthier start in life.