This is a question that comes up time and time again with expectant mothers who have a preference for smoking cannabis. Smoking anything during pregnancy isn’t recommended, but some pregnant women do consider consuming cannabis to help ease some of the symptoms associated with it. But is marijuana safe to use during pregnancy…or not?
Using Marijuana During Pregnancy: Safe for Developing Babies?
Any expectant mother familiar with the nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness will attest it’s not a day in the park. Many moms-to-be however, see cannabis as the perfect solution to alleviate morning sickness. Some swear it helps with the anxiety that can occasionally accompany pregnancy as well.
What Studies Have to Say About Pot and Pregnancy
Studies on pot-smoking pregnant women are hard to come by. Research is limited, as it’s considered unethical to do any potentially harmful health experiments on pregnant women. Your doctor or nurse isn’t likely to prescribe medical cannabis while you’re pregnant. Maybe your midwife, but there’s still a chance the idea will be frowned upon.
It’s hard to determine without necessary research if consuming cannabis while pregnant is safe or not. Some people say it’s fine and report using it through pregnancy without a problem, while some studies report it might be risky to the developing fetus.
One systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies was led by Dr. Shayna Conner. The objective of the study was to estimate whether marijuana use in pregnancy increases risks for neonatal outcomes. It also set out to clarify if any increased risk is attributable to marijuana use itself or confounding factors like tobacco use.
After analyzing the data, primary outcomes showed to be low birth weight and preterm delivery of less than 37 weeks. Once tobacco use and other cofounding factors were sorted, researchers made the following conclusion:
“Maternal marijuana use during pregnancy is not an independent risk factor for adverse neonatal outcomes after adjusting for confounding factors. Thus, the association between maternal marijuana use and adverse outcomes appears attributable to concomitant tobacco use and other confounding factors.”
Even after the study however, Conner still expressed apprehension about using cannabis during pregnancy. “Any foreign substance that doesn’t directly benefit maternal or fetal health,” she remarked, “should be avoided.”
1980s Study Looks at Pot Use Among Pregnant Jamaican Women
While there haven’t been many studies regarding pot use during pregnancy, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject was conducted in the 1980s. A longitudinal study that compared Jamaican women who smoked marijuana during pregnancy to those that did not. Researchers tested the infants once they were born at one, three, and thirty days.
They found that the babies that were exposed to marijuana in the womb scored considerably higher in reflex and basic function tests (blood pressure and heart rate, for example) than babies that were not exposed to cannabis in the womb. The infants born to mothers who consumed cannabis were also more alert and less irritable.
The team conducting the study followed up with these children at the ages of four and five. They found no differences in the two groups, even after taking school attendance and home environment into consideration. Dr. Melanie Dreher, who led the study, had the following to say after it was finished:
“We can’t really conclude that there’s necessarily no impact from ganja use prenatally whatsoever, but what can be concluded is that the child who attends basic school regularly, is provided with a variety of stimulating experiences at home, who is encouraged to show mature behavior, has a profoundly better chance of performing at a higher level on the skills measured by the McCarthy whether or not his or her mother consumed ganja during pregnancy.”
Further Research Needed to Conclude if It’s Safe to Use Marijuana During Pregnancy
Without further studies it’s hard to determine with definite conclusion if marijuana use during pregnancy is safe. Research done without cofounding factors (such as tobacco use) are needed, as well as follow ups on these children into adolescence and adulthood.
Research into various types of marijuana, including THC and CBD, could help determine what’s safe (or not) for expecting moms. CBD has been approved by several states for medicinal use, however the effects of this non-psychoactive cannabinoid on developing fetuses is still unknown.
We’re curious about how you feel about using marijuana during pregnancy. Do you consider it harmful or know someone who has used it while pregnant without a problem? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.