- Never smoke or use weed while pregnant as it increases the risk of stillbirth and low birth weight.
- You should also never use marijuana while breastfeeding since THC can be passed through breastmilk.
- If you use medical marijuana, ask your doctor about other treatment options during pregnancy.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
With recreational marijuana now legal in 17 states and medical marijuana legal in 36, smoking or ingesting weed is becoming more mainstream. And rates of marijuana use among pregnant people, in particular, are rising.
Research regarding the implications of using weed while pregnant is limited, but the science so far shows it poses enough of a risk to make doctors wary. Here is what you need to know about the potential harms of using weed while pregnant and breastfeeding.
Can you smoke weed while pregnant?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) don’t recommend marijuana use of any kind during pregnancy due to possible risks for both the parent and baby.
More human research is needed, but so far, studies have found that the chemicals in marijuana can reach the fetus by crossing the placenta, says Kimberly Langdon, MD, an OB-GYN with Medzino, a
provider. This is true whether the marijuana is smoked or consumed through an edible or tincture.
Potential risks to the fetus if one uses marijuana during pregnancy include:
- Smaller birth weight: A large 2016 review found that infants exposed to cannabis in utero had lower birth weights than infants who were not. A low birth weight increases the risk of complications, like difficulty regulating body temperature and infections.
- Stillbirth: A 2014 study found cannabis use — either on its own or in combination with smoking and illicit drugs — during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of stillbirth.
Risks to the pregnant person if they smoke during their pregnancy include:
- Breathing problems: Shortness of breath is a common symptom of pregnancy. Smoking marijuana (or any substance) can lower your body’s oxygen level, thereby exacerbating difficulty breathing.
- Falling: Marijuana can make you feel dizzy and may also alter your sense of judgment, which can increase your risk of falling. Falls in the second or third trimester can be dangerous to both the parent and baby. A fall, especially on the abdomen, could cause contractions, placental abruption, or a loss of amniotic fluid.
Other studies have found marijuana use may be associated with preterm birth and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit. But it’s important to note that larger, more robust studies are needed to nail down just how dangerous marijuana use is during pregnancy.
That said, the data so far suggest enough risk that pregnant people should steer clear of marijuana, Langdon says.
This is true even if you’ve been prescribed medical marijuana, Merhi says. If you have concerns about stopping marijuana use during pregnancy, talk with your health care provider who may be able to suggest alternatives until you are done with pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Can marijuana help with pregnancy-related nausea?
Some people claim that marijuana can help with severe nausea during pregnancy. In fact, a 2018 study found that pregnant people with severe nausea and vomiting were four times more likely to use marijuana than those without a severe nausea diagnosis.
Still, the risks of smoking marijuana while pregnant outweigh the benefits even in these cases, Merhi says. Alternatives that could help with nausea during pregnancy include:
- Taking a vitamin B supplement
- Eating frequent, smaller portions
- Avoiding fatty or spicy foods
- Prescription medication, like an antiemetic pill intended to stop severe nausea and vomiting
If nausea and vomiting is a problem for you during pregnancy, talk with your health care provider about treatment options.
Can you use marijuana while breastfeeding?
In order to limit potential risk to the infant, breastfeeding parents should not use marijuana or marijuana-containing products in any form, says Zaher Merhi, MD, an OB-GYN, reproductive endocrinologist, and the founder of Rejuvenating Fertility Center.
What’s the difference between CBD and THC? Understanding their health benefits and side effects
The current data available regarding the safety of marijuana use while breastfeeding is limited. However, we do know two chemicals in marijuana — Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — have the potential to affect the neurodevelopment of an infant. THC, in particular, can be passed on to a breastfeeding infant through breast milk, Merhi says.
Data on the effects of CBD exposure to an infant through breast milk are limited and conflicting, but we do know CBD products may contain other contaminants, like bacteria or pesticides that could be dangerous to the parent and baby, Merhi says.
While more research is needed, the science so far shows enough of a risk that breastfeeding parents should not use marijuana while nursing, Merhi says.
Research is still emerging on the long-term effects of marijuana use during pregnancy for both pregnant people and their babies, but so far studies show potential risks of lower birth weights and stillbirth.
Additionally, chemicals in marijuana can show up in breastmilk. And While data so far are not substantial enough to draw definitive conclusions about its effects, the ACOG and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend steering clear of marijuana both during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
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