The Truth Behind Using Cannabis During (and Post) Pregnancy
It’s not at all uncommon for pregnant mothers to experience anxiety and depression during their pregnancy, and while neither has been proven to affect the baby, the same can’t be said for most anxiety medications out there.
But should the mother have to suffer because she’s discouraged from taking anxiety medication during pregnancy?
Well, another popular option is cannabis. Let’s take a look at how cannabis is typically used for relief by pregnant women who suffer from anxiety—and whether that’s a good idea.
Consuming Cannabis During Pregnancy
One of the most popular urban myths is that cannabis can be used for a variety of problems during pregnancy. From morning sickness and nausea to stress relief, cannabis has always been looked upon as a safer, more natural alternative to medications from the pharmacy.
And it’s no surprise—who could blame anyone for thinking that?
Cannabis has always been known for being able to soothe symptoms of anxiety and depression, but cannabinoids and pregnancy have only recently been studied more extensively.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a pretty comprehensive set of guidelines recently on cannabis use for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Essentially, don’t do it.
But let’s take a deeper look into the effects of using cannabis while pregnant—and if taking it in different forms makes any difference at all on its effects.
Eating Edibles While Pregnant
While eating edibles is generally seen as being less harmful than smoking (it doesn’t hurt your lungs, for one), it’s actually still pretty harmful to pregnant women.
Because the key ingredients in weed, namely THC (which is what gets you high and gives you that buzz), still are able to travel between the mother and her baby through the placenta. Besides nutrients, chemicals like the ones found in cannabis can also get absorbed by the baby—same goes for when you’re breastfeeding, as breastmilk can carry THC too.
Funny enough, compared with smoking, the effects of edibles may be even direr for mothers and babies, mainly because of the extraordinarily intense THC amounts. The high from edibles lasts longer and is typically way more intense and unpredictable because every person digests and processes cannabis differently. If full-grown adults can have experiences like this from eating cannabis, just imagine how a tiny baby’s body might be affected by edibles.
So, to debunk this myth: no, eating edibles is no safer than smoking or vaping weed, nor is it necessarily any better than taking other types of anxiety medication.
Can I Smoke Weed During Pregnancy?
When it comes to the effects of smoking weed when pregnant, the prognosis is pretty black-and-white.
You wouldn’t smoke cigarettes (or drink alcohol) while you’re pregnant, and you shouldn’t smoke weed either.
Babies’ brains are especially susceptible to chemicals, which means that yes, THC most likely will impact the development of their brains.
According to recent studies, “the neurodevelopmental data in humans and animals suggest that prenatal exposure to THC may lead to subtle, persistent changes in targeted aspects of higher-level cognition and psychological well-being.”
Even after a baby is born, children’s brain development is easily affected for a very long time, even through their teenage years. It makes sense, that in the womb and while breastfeeding, this is no different.
However, the caveat is of course that studies of cannabis effects on pregnant women and babies aren’t exactly… ethical. Which means that there haven’t been many studies on this subject.
If cannabis does indeed have an extremely negative impact on infant development, who would be responsible for that child’s life?
Myth-busting: Is It Safe to Smoke Weed During Pregnancy?
Regardless of whether you’re smoking a joint or vaping, smoking weed is not advisable while pregnant. Yes, vaping is supposedly healthier than smoking joints because you’re inhaling water vapour, not smoke.
All forms of consuming weed will include THC, which is known to have negative effects on babies. So… don’t do it.
How Does Smoking Weed Affect a Fetus?
From the few studies that have been carried out, scientists found that there is, at the very least, a connection between cannabis and other factors like low birth weight.
And while low birth weight isn’t usually life-threatening, it can be dangerous and if you can avoid it, most people will want to do so. Why?
Because babies that are born prematurely or are smaller than average typically also have difficulty maintaining normal body temperature may have breathing problems, and also experience lower-than-normal oxygen levels.
Some of these studies also found that smoking pot (or consuming weed in other forms) during pregnancy can result in a higher chance of babies having to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit.
On a more severe level, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently did a study on the likelihood of stillbirths when considered in combination with women who used different types of drugs including cocaine, amphetamine, painkillers, and yes, cannabis.
After taking blood samples from the women who experienced stillbirths and studying the umbilical cords, they found that drug use was associated with 2.3 times more likely to have a stillbirth.
Again, there’s a caveat. The study wasn’t exclusively done on cannabis, but rather a few different substances, so it’s hard to say exactly which drug was more likely to cause stillbirths.
For the Last Time… Does Smoking Weed Harm Your Baby?
Yes, we totally get that a lot of research so far is, at best, suggestive but inconclusive. However, we know enough to be able to conclude that there are risks to babies if the mother uses cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding.
According to further research from Europe PMC, the range of effects include (but aren’t limited to):
- increased likelihood of stillbirth
- possible impairment of fetal growth
- higher chance of preterm deliveries
- other neurodevelopmental issues
So far, the research so far has made recommendations that are pretty clear. If you’re thinking of using cannabis, whether it’s in edible form or through smoking or vaping, don’t do it while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Note: This blog post does not constitute medical advice. For the most up-to-date professional medical opinion, you should talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any questions about cannabis and pregnancy or breastfeeding.