Recreational drug use is common in women of child bearing age. Marijuana is now legal in several places worldwide, and easily available even in countries where it is not legal. This means that many women will find themselves pregnant while still smoking or otherwise ingesting weed.
Research on marijuana use in pregnancy
Unfortunately, not much modern research has been done on cannabis use in pregnancy. Few studies have been done since the 1980s, so our information is thin and outdated.
Studies suggest that the active part of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is able to cross the placenta to the blood stream of the fetus. However, once it gets there, researchers are unsure what effect it has on the baby.
There have been few large studies on weed use in pregnancy. Pregnant women tend not to report their use of cannabis to their doctors, particularly in areas where it is still illegal. Although it is understandable for women to be careful talking about drug use, researchers need accurate information to understand what marijuana does to the fetus. As weed becomes legal in more places, hopefully, more funding will go toward studying its use in pregnancy.
Research does indicate some negative effects of marijuana use on the unborn child.
Marijuana during Pregnancy
Effects in newborns
Women who smoke weed regularly during pregnancy seem to have smaller babies. They are also more likely to miscarry or give birth prematurely. Babies with a low birth weight often need to spend time in a special care unit.
However, many women who use weed in pregnancy also smoke tobacco. Tobacco use slows the growth of the fetus. The babies of tobacco smokers tend to have a lower birth weight, and risk being born prematurely. Therefore, pregnant women who use both tobacco and weed cause confusion for researchers.
There is currently no evidence that cannabis use in pregnancy causes physical birth defects. Various animal studies show support for these findings.
Long term effects of Smoking Weed while pregnant
Studies of older children born to mothers who smoked weed regularly in pregnancy do indicate some cognitive effects. The children score lower on memory tests, but intelligence tests show no differences. Children exposed to cannabis in the womb have a slightly increased chance of having attention or hyperactivity problems.
Marijuana for treating morning sickness
Some midwives recommend the smoking of small amounts of weed to combat morning sickness. However, no legitimate medical groups recommend this. You do not need to expose your baby to cannabis, as there are plenty of natural and FDA approved treatments available.
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Although the risks of ingesting marijuana during pregnancy do not seem great, this is partly because of a lack of information. In 2015 the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advised women to avoid marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding, due to the lack of research into the long term effects on the developing child. To be on the safe side, you should avoid marijuana while pregnant.