Has pregnancy changed your thoughts about lighting up? Are you worried about the effects marijuana might have on your baby? Cannabis is a controversial subject at the best of times, let alone if mentioned in the same sentence as pregnancy.
Maybe you just want to know about the potential harm of being around weed smoke now that you have a baby on board. Or, you’re worried about your personal dependence upon it. Doctors will not likely support the use of cannabis during pregnancy, unless the benefit outweighs the risk.
But don’t worry. Either way, there is support and guidance out there for you.
What’s All the Fuss About?
Let’s start at the beginning, with some vital background information about marijuana itself. Gaining some insight about potential problems during pregnancy can help you make an informed decision about what choices you make.
When using weed as an inhaled substance, it is often mixed with tobacco and smoked, in the form of a self-rolled cigarette. Tobacco contains multiple poisonous chemicals, one of the main ones being nicotine. We know that tobacco and nicotine aren’t good for your health, and when weed is added, it is equally as detrimental (source).
Inhalation of these harmful substances alone can cause multiple medical complications, let alone when combined with any drugs.
What Is Weed?
Weed is derived from a plant usually found in Central and Southern Asia. The plant itself is of a family called Cannabaceae, but has many different names of breed. You will probably know all of the nicknames it has. These include pot, green, dope, ganja, skunk, hash, and Mary-Jane.
The psychoactive components are created from dried parts of a cannabis plant’s flowers. They contain a psychoactive chemical called THC, scientifically known as tetrahydrocannabinol (source).
Substances made from it, for medicinal and recreational use, include:
- Extracts which can be used in food.
- Leaves and flowers used to brew in tea.
- Smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes/pipes/water pipes.
Why Do People Use It?
I have touched a little on the main uses for weed being medicinal, usually for pre-existing medical conditions, or for recreation. The most common form of use of weed is smoking the substance, as it enters the bloodstream quicker through the lungs.
Marijuana is known for its mind-altering changes (source).
These changes can be both physical and mental. Users often experience pleasant euphoria and relaxation, heightened mood and changes in perception, as well as an increase in appetite (source).
There are, of course, many adverse side effects with drug abuse, even with weed which is considered fairly harmless by some people. Psychosis, paranoia, and anxiety to name a few.
Smoking Weed During Pregnancy
Smoking cannabis is among the most common way women choose to get high (source).
Unfortunately, there is not much documentation surrounding any positive aspects of smoking weed, or — in fact — any benefits of its use at all, during pregnancy.
There is, however, plenty of research flying around regarding the positive aspects of the general use of weed. Remember, this is not based on use in expectant mothers.
Due to some effects, users have experienced, symptomatic improvement has been analyzed on the following (source):
There is conflicting data regarding the smoking of marijuana. There are beliefs that it minimizes the risks of lung cancer. Weed can be smoked using tobacco-free paper which reduces the inhalation of harmful chemicals from nicotine (source).
However, in contrast to this belief, is that when put in papers to smoke, weed is still mixed with tobacco fibers (source).
With apparent benefits, including pain relief and reduction in nausea and vomiting, I actually find it understandable why some moms consider using it during pregnancy. Those parts of pregnancy suck!
But always keep in mind, the bad parts about pregnancy are temporary, while any decisions you make can have long-term consequences for your baby.
Are There Dangers for My Baby?
Again, due to the controversy surrounding performing clinical studies of smoking weed during pregnancy, this area is gray, but very serious. There are lots of books, and multiple resources, with documentation of potential risks to your baby.
Since you can’t physically see your baby, particularly in the early days with no bump, it’s pretty easy for some to forget they are pregnant. That is if you’re lucky enough not to be vomiting at the whiff of your favorite coffee, or peeing constantly!
Just because you can’t feel your baby yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Whatever you eat, drink — or even put on your skin — can affect your baby. Resisting that last glass of wine you were offered wasn’t futile after all!
Weed smoking is apparently less damaging than alcohol, but is arguably more taboo. Regardless, smoking pot during pregnancy can harm your baby, and there is plenty of evidence in support of that (source).
Assessing the risks of smoking weed in pregnancy, is again difficult for clinicians to observe due to the ethics surrounding it. However, there is information available suggesting that risks may exist.
- Risk of miscarriage. Although there has not been any human research regarding miscarriage rates, animal studies have confirmed it—especially in the early stages (source).
- Preterm labor.
- Stillbirth (source).
Potential Postnatal Risks
- Low birth weight (source).
- Impaired neurodevelopment (source).
- Birth defects.
- Increased risk of childhood cancers.
The problems associated with smoking weed during pregnancy aren’t just limited to the pregnancy itself. From baby to youth and then adult, the drug can have lasting consequences for both you and your child.
Extensive use can mean extensive long-term consequences, unfortunately.
Medical problems such as memory loss, verbal decline (for example, inability to remember words), and cognitive impairment.
Recent studies have even shown an increased risk of testicular cancer, a greater risk of gum disease and a general decline in your respiratory health (source).
The general public impression of smoking weed is that it is bad, but nobody really seems to know why. Again, this is partially due to lack of resourcing and the inability to initiate clinical human trials.
Thanks to social media, music videos, and various cultures, weed smoking is often portrayed as being one of the safer illicit drugs on the market, which, of course, encourages its use, too.
If all of the above hasn’t quite been enough persuasion to seek support, there are criminal offenses attached to weed. In case you didn’t know already, marijuana is illegal under federal law, even if state law chooses to legalize it (source).
It has a Schedule I classification, which means it is deemed to have no medicinal purpose. Not only that, it is categorized as high on the potential for abuse, alongside heroin. Yikes.
The criminal aspect is being in possession of, growing or selling cannabis, which is violating multiple federal laws. Our laws in the U.S. are quite confusing, as some states have legalized its use for medical and recreational purposes (source).
The ongoing battle between state and federal law is widely noted in the media. Despite state legalization, in the eyes of the federal law, you are committing a crime with its use. Some states allow for cannabis-infused products, others for rare illnesses only (source).
Despite the few studies advising positives for smoking weed for symptom management, it still is not recognized as a suitable medicinal drug.
You will, however, likely find many websites and public studies around the support of weed smoking, but not in pregnancy. Some organizations are actually fighting the government to try and legalize responsible adult use of the drug (source).
Most drug-dependent moms will have the same medical involvement as others who have not smoked pot during pregnancy. However, multiple scans and additional blood tests may be required.
Drugs welfare and benefit advisors may become involved, with child welfare carrying out risk assessments too. There are substance-misuse specialist midwives, support workers, and your own obstetrician should also be willing to help.
Alternative Therapies for Morning Sickness
You’ll likely have seen reports on news stations where a study has suggested that some women have chosen to use marijuana to subside their morning sickness (source).
As appealing as lighting up may be, and as difficult as it is to stop, there are alternative therapies that can indeed support you.
Every morning during my second pregnancy, it seemed that my first child wanted toast. When I got within two feet of the toaster, my son, the floor, and my feet were covered in vomit.
I’m not quite sure why it gets called morning sickness, as I was sick throughout my entire pregnancy. Nothing I tried helped.
I went to so many parenting classes where women raved about how wonderful their ginger tea was and how it stopped their vom-athons. That’s wonderful, but it did nothing for mine.
Anyhow, my physician recommended so many things to try before I was offered pharmaceutical drugs.
Here are a few:
- Travel bands.
- Ginger — anything with ginger in it!
- Herbal remedies.
- Rest! Not exactly the easiest thing to do with other children in tow, a job, and a house to run. Lack of sleep can trigger morning sickness too (source).
- Eating dry, plain foods such as bread, cereal, toast (almost vomits reminiscing about how awful it smelled to me!).
- Taking vitamins during pregnancy.
Your Questions Answered
1. What Exactly Is Medicinal Marijuana?
The term medicinal basically means “for medical use.” Therefore medicinal weed is that prescribed by a doctor. Legalities are surrounding prescribing, depending upon your state, and multiple associations do not approve marijuana used for treating illness.
The substance in weed which causes the ‘high’, is a chemical known as THC — its full name is delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (source).
If smoked, the chemical gets into your bloodstream quicker than any other way, through the lungs to your brain. THC acts as a stimulant in the brain and provokes the release of dopamine. Dopamine initiates movement as it is a neurotransmitter.
Instances, where marijuana is prescribed, include:
- Severe Parkinson’s disease: The increase in dopamine allows for movement without tremors.
- Glaucoma patients: A single dose of THC reduces intraocular pressure (source).
- Multiple Sclerosis: Helps with muscle spasms and pain (source).
- Severe Nausea: Can be used for nausea caused by chemotherapy.
2. How Dangerous Is Passive Pot Smoke?
A contact high is entirely possible when pregnant if you’re around someone smoking weed. Exposure to secondhand pot smoke can impair blood vessel dilations more than tobacco does.
So yes — passive inhalation is pretty dangerous.
3. Is Eating Marijuana Safer Than Smoking?
Again, due to federal law, there is very little information available to support this idea.
Any ingestible drug, whether illegal or prescribed, generally takes longer to become effective. This is also true for weed. Unfortunately, this may lead to users overdosing by eating in excess to try to feel its impact faster.
The strength of the pot, unlike with smoking, is not easily detectable before eating. Therefore the answer is no, edible marijuana is likely, in fact, more dangerous than when smoked.
Whether you are worried about your own use or addiction, your partner’s, or even a friend’s, there is no shame in seeking support from your obstetric team. There are plenty of resources available to help you try and reduce — and hopefully stop — smoking weed to protect your baby.
Do remember, however, that the majority of women who smoke marijuana have a normal pregnancy, and normal delivery of their babies. Babies who show signs of withdrawal, can recover.
I hope I have covered most of the questions you may have. I’m not going to lie; it’s a hard subject to talk about. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and any shares you can give us.
From the lack of medical research, to ambiguity around its laws and benefits, smoking weed in pregnancy is a very controversial subject (source).
Let us know what you think in the comments section below. Sharing your experiences is absolutely vital to support fellow moms.