Pregnancy, as exciting as it can be, comes with some pretty nasty side effects: nausea, vomiting, anxiety over the life of your unborn child, and sleepless nights due to, well, all of the above and more (think aches and pains basically everywhere).
Sounds like something a hit off a joint could fix in a minute, right?
Maybe… but is smoking weed while you’re pregnant really a smart idea? More women than ever seem to think so: A 2019 study found that a growing number of pregnant women are using marijuana recreationally.
Do the risks outweigh the benefits? Here’s what to know before you puff away.
In short: Doctors do not recommend smoking weed while you’re pregnant. Still, many believe the drug is not as unsafe during pregnancy as it seems, while others believe edibles aren’t as harmful as, say, taking a hit of a joint.
Basically, there are arguments for the use of weed during pregnancy, but healthcare professionals say it’s a hard pass.
Don’t laugh, but… what is weed, anyway?
You might hear some people argue that weed is safe during pregnancy because it’s a natural plant. And that part is true: Marijuana (also known by many nicknames, including weed, pot, and bud) is the dried portion of the Cannabis sativa plant.
Still, just because it’s natural doesn’t make it safe.
People smoke weed because it makes them feel good. The drug can leave you feeling euphoric and relaxed while enhancing your senses. These mind-altering effects are due to delta-0-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Marijuana can be smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (aka joints), pipes, bongs, or blunts. You don’t even have to smoke it: You can drink marijuana in tea or bake it into foods like brownies, cookies, or candies (which are called edibles).
The bottom line: All that THC might reach the fetus
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the chemicals in marijuana might be able to reach the fetus by crossing the placenta — which is exactly what you don’t want.
There’s limited research on exactly what weed can do to a fetus (pregnant women aren’t exactly jumping at the chance to be test subjects). Still, doctors know of some possible risks, and that’s why they advise against it.
Most pregnant women experience some nausea and vomiting while pregnant, whether it lasts only for the first trimester or throughout the pregnancy.
Marijuana has been shown to be effective at fighting off nausea and vomiting, so it’s not shocking that some studies have said weed might be able to ease frustrating morning sickness.
A small 2006 study of 84 women found that 65 percent used marijuana to relieve morning sickness, and over 92 percent of those using marijuana rated it as “extremely effective” or “effective.”
But other studies have found that when women used marijuana during pregnancy, their children were more likely to develop problems with behavior, learning, and memory.
Basically, some researchers believe smoking weed while pregnant can affect a baby’s brain.
So… yes or no?
There’s no single study or piece of research that confirms marijuana use can relieve morning sickness. And even if it could, healthcare providers would still recommend against it — no exceptions. And yes, that includes medical marijuana.
Again, the research on marijuana use during pregnancy is limited, but doctors say it could have several negative effects on a developing baby, including:
- low birth weight
- premature birth
- small head circumference
- small length
- disruption in normal brain development
- possible effects on memory and cognitive ability
- possible effects on fetal heart rate
- potential long-term behavioral problems
Weed can affect your judgment or cause dizziness, which could lead to a fall or injury that could harm your developing fetus. In general, it isn’t worth the risk.
Once the baby is born and your body is yours again, you may assume it’s safe to pick the habit right back up again… but that might not be true.
Some experts consider THC to be a developmental neurotoxin, which means a child whose mother smoked might have trouble with memory, attention, controlling impulses, and school performance.
Secondhand marijuana smoke may also be just as damaging as secondhand smoke from cigarettes.
Marijuana can also affect your level of awareness, and you kinda need your full faculties when you’re the primary caregiver for a tiny newborn.
More research needs to be done on the effects of marijuana when a mother is breastfeeding. Due to the lack of research, doctors generally don’t recommend using marijuana while breastfeeding.
Some studies have found it’s possible for a small amount of THC to be present in breast milk. This could affect an infant’s nervous system development or even slow their motor development.
Other research has found that exposure to marijuana through breast milk can cause babies to have a decreased sucking reflex, spend less time feeding, and therefore be slow to gain weight and develop physically.
You might assume CBD is a safer option with similar feel-good effects, since it doesn’t have THC in it.
CBD can be derived from marijuana or hemp but does not produce a high. It can be found in dietary supplements, beauty products, and many other items. It may calm you down and help you sleep better.
Here’s the thing, though: We don’t know enough about CBD to know whether it’s harmful to a developing fetus. The popular use of CBD is so new that there’s no comprehensive or long-term research on its effects on a pregnant woman, a fetus, or a breastfed baby.
However, the FDA doesn’t recommend the use of CBD while pregnant, as they say there are still considerable risks. Your doctor will encourage you not to use CBD products during pregnancy.
According to the FDA, high doses of CBD in pregnant test animals have caused issues with the reproductive systems of male fetuses. They believe CBD will be transferred to babies through breast milk.
The FDA also believes CBD products could be contaminated with other substances, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and bacteria, that could harm a fetus or a breastfed baby.
A 2019 study on animals found that exposure to CBD or THC in early pregnancy could cause major malformations in both the face and the brain of a developing embryo, sort of like what would happen to a baby suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome.
Basically, there are a lot of unanswered questions about CBD. In the case of your unborn child, the FDA and doctors recommend playing it safe and avoiding it.