Does Smoking Marijuana While Pregnant Harm The Baby?
Is smoking marijuana while pregnant safe? Or does it have lasting effects on the baby and the mother? If you are someone who smokes cannabis regularly and you are planning to have a baby or are already pregnant, you may be wondering what will happen to the baby and your health and if there is a better or safer way to do it.
If this describes you, current surveys show you are not alone. Weed is the most common drug used by women during pregnancy, and its use is increasing due to the legalization and acceptance of medical marijuana to society.
However, smoking marijuana while pregnant remains one of the most controversial topics surrounding cannabis because of the potential risks THC poses to the fetus and the lack of comprehensive research on the topic.
Pregnancy is also not the easiest of times in a woman’s life. The benefits of cannabis – such as the ability to relax and calm you down, its anti-nausea, and pain-relieving effects may be so appealing that many people consider smoking it. But should you continue smoking marijuana while pregnant? Will doing so harm your baby’s or your health?
Smoking Marijuana While Pregnant: What Other Women Are Doing
Since the 1980s, researchers have known THC – the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis can cross from the mother to the fetus through the placenta. Recent research has also discovered that THC concentrates in breast milk. Therefore, the baby can be exposed to the compound for up to six days before it is completely eliminated from the mother’s system.
But what does this mean to the mother’s and the baby’s health? Is it safe to smoke weed while pregnant and what are other women and mothers doing?
Research shows that more women are consuming cannabis than ever. In a 2021 survey assessing the prevalence of prenatal cannabis use in Ontario, Canada, researchers found that 11% of the participants enrolled had smoked weed at some point in their pregnancy and that 4% were currently consuming cannabis during pregnancy.
This is more than twice the number of women found to be smoking cannabis while pregnant in 2017, a year before cannabis legalization.
But what does this mean for the baby? Early research on cannabis and pregnancy suggests that there could be lifelong effects on the fetus if you smoke cannabis during early pregnancy. Other studies say the opposite. So is smoking marijuana while pregnant bad for the baby?
Is It Safe To Smoke Weed During Pregnancy?
There are too many risks and unknowns regarding cannabis consumption during pregnancy. Research on pregnant women and the effects of cannabis on their fetuses is held back by lots of ethical issues as researchers can’t just ask women to smoke weed and wait to see how it affects their babies. What if they are harmed?
As a result, most of the information we have today comes from old studies that don’t quite reflect the current marijuana landscapes and the opinions of doctors and cannabis experts. Most doctors and health practitioners advise people to avoid cannabis use during pregnancy.
The reasons for this are the many unknowns and risks that it may pose to the fetus and mother’s health and the existence of “safer” options such as pharmaceuticals. However, emerging research suggests that consuming cannabis may not harm the fetus at all.
So which side should you believe? What are the potential risks of smoking cannabis during pregnancy?
4 Potential Risks Of Smoking Weed During Pregnancy
Research evidence shows that consuming cannabis during pregnancy may be dangerous to your baby in several ways. Cannabis has hundreds of compounds that can pass through the placenta from your system to the growing fetus, which may have several adverse effects, including to you.
So what are the most common risks of prenatal marijuana consumption?
1. Preterm Labour Or Stillbirth
Research shows that cannabis use during the pregnancy term may cause premature birth. One study shows that women who use cannabis frequently during pregnancy are 6% more likely to give birth to premature babies, and 13% are likely to be underweight.
Research has also shown that pregnant women who use weed during pregnancy have a 2.3 times greater risk of stillbirth. However, researchers aren’t entirely sure if the increased risk is due to weed use only or the use of other drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes alongside cannabis.
More research is still needed to understand what compounds in cannabis may cause these effects. This is one of the reasons doctors strongly advise women against cannabis use during early pregnancy to avoid increasing such risks.
2. Low Birth Weight
An analysis of 24 studies on pregnancy and cannabis use found a connection between low birth weight and weed use during pregnancy. However, not all the studies reviewed showed a relationship between marijuana use and low birth weight.
Another study found a link between marijuana and low birth weight, especially in women who smoked both weed and cigarettes. Low birth weight is typically associated with low oxygen levels, breathing problems, difficulty maintaining body temperature and other conditions.
3. Maternal Health Issues
Cannabis use during pregnancy may cause some risks for your health too. There is the possibility of lung injury lowering oxygen concentration in your blood, leading to breathing difficulties.
THC also impairs your judgement, causes dizziness and may affect coordination, increasing the risk of falling, which can harm you and your baby.
4. It May Affect The Baby’s Development After Birth
Experts suggest that cannabis consumption during pregnancy and breastfeeding may affect the baby’s brain development. However, research isn’t clear as there are few long-term studies. There is also a growing body of research that suggests cannabis use doesn’t harm the child after birth.
A study by researchers from Swinburne University, Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute found that prenatal cannabis exposure doesn’t lead to cognitive impairment in children. More research is still needed to establish the risk of smoking pot while pregnant on growing children.
Why Pregnant Women Smoke Weed
There are many reasons why women prefer smoking marijuana while pregnant. One of the most common reasons is to treat morning sickness symptoms.
Cannabis is a known anti-nausea therapy that is even prescribed to treat chemotherapy-related nausea. Some women also use it to combat nausea in the early stages of pregnancy, although there is no research to prove it’s a safe practice. To avoid the risks, consult your doctor on the safest way of managing morning sickness.
Some women use medical cannabis to manage pre-existing conditions such as chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety and insomnia. Therefore, it is understandable that some people may be reluctant to stop due to the fear that their conditions may worsen, especially during pregnancy.
Pregnant women or those hoping to become pregnant are advised to work with their doctors to find alternative therapies.
When Should You Stop Smoking Weed If You Are Pregnant, And When Can You Resume?
Experts recommend women who use weed for medical purposes stop at least three months before trying to conceive. If you are not aware right away, it’s a good idea to stop immediately upon learning that you are pregnant.
THC and its metabolites can be stored in fat cells for up to three months, so if you are trying to have a baby, the best thing is to ensure your system is free of the cannabinoids before conceiving to avoid any adverse effects. You can resume consuming weed after you stop breastfeeding.
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