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Marijuana Use and Pregnancy: What's the Problem?
As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, some pregnant women have turned to using marijuana to ease nausea or other pregnancy symptoms. However, researchers don’t know a lot about what the effects might be and while the research is in progress, most experts advise pregnant women not to use marijuana.
The U.S. Surgeon General has this to say:
I, Surgeon General VADM Jerome Adams, am emphasizing the importance of protecting our nation from the health risks of marijuana use in adolescence and during pregnancy. Recent increases in access to marijuana and in its potency, along with misperceptions of safety of marijuana endanger our most precious resource, our nation’s youth.
Many of the chemicals in marijuana (in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) can pass through a mother’s system to her baby and can negatively affect a baby’s health. Research shows that using marijuana while pregnant can cause health problems in newborns—including low birth weight. Using marijuana during pregnancy may also increase a baby’s risk of developmental problems.
Use of synthetic marijuana (known as fake weed, K2 or Spice) is also potentially harmful to a baby’s development. Spice products contain extremely high THC equivalents, which can affect a baby’s birth weight and size. Breathing marijuana smoke can also be bad for a mother and her baby. Marijuana smoke has many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke and may increase the chances for developmental problems in a baby.
Who’s at Risk?
About 1 in 14 pregnant women in the United States report using marijuana.
Can It Be Prevented?
The good news is that prenatal marijuana exposure is completely preventable. Any woman who is pregnant or could become pregnant should avoid consuming marijuana.
Healthcare providers can routinely talk to women who are pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or could become pregnant about their marijuana use and advise them on the dangers of marijuana use during pregnancy and in general.
Tips for Scripts
It is important to include accurate information about the health risks of using marijuana for a mother and her baby. Some important ideas to convey include,
- marijuana use during pregnancy may increase your baby’s risk of developmental problems;
- the chemicals in any form of marijuana may be bad for your baby (this includes edible marijuana products such as cookies, brownies, or candies);
- marijuana use during pregnancy may negatively impact your baby after birth (research shows marijuana use during pregnancy may make it hard for your child to pay attention, learn, or do well in school and these issues may only become noticeable as your child grows older); and
- if you’re using marijuana and are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor.
The Bottom Line
Mothers may put their babies at risk of health problems when they expose them to marijuana during pregnancy.