The research is in progress, most experts, including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), advise pregnant women not to use marijuana.
Why? Mostly because the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) – that is, the ingredient that makes you “high” – passes through you into your baby’s bloodstream.
This is true whether you’re smoking weed or consuming marijuana edibles. During pregnancy, 10 to 30 percent of the THC in your system can reach your baby. And babies are much more vulnerable to chemicals and toxins than adults.
Most parents wouldn’t dream of feeding marijuana to their baby after birth. Even though we don’t know exactly what the effect would be, common sense tells us it’s not a good idea. The same caution applies while you’re pregnant and the marijuana you use crosses the placenta and enters your baby’s system.
What’s more, weed may be contaminated with other drugs or herbicides that could harm your baby – even if you bought it legally. Some dispensaries claim their products have been approved or certified, but dispensaries are not closely regulated. And marijuana is not less risky than other drugs (such as anti-depressants) because it is “natural.”
It’s difficult to study the specific effects of using pot during pregnancy, for a couple of reasons: Women in studies may also be using tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs. And marijuana may be contaminated, as mentioned above.
Here’s what we know for sure:
- The chemicals in marijuana pass from your system to your baby’s.
- Smoking marijuana (or tobacco) raises carbon monoxide levels in your blood. This can reduce the amount of oxygen that your developing baby receives, which can affect growth.
Studies have also found these possible effects of marijuana on a baby in utero:
- Some researchers have linked prenatal marijuana exposure to increased irritability in newborns.
- Prenatal marijuana exposure may also have a persistent negative effect throughout childhood on what researchers call higher-order thinking, which includes problem-solving, memory, planning, attention, and controlling impulsivity. Some studies show lower academic scores in these children.
Finally, there are legal risks: In at least 14 states, using drugs during pregnancy is considered child abuse.
Women risk losing custody of their children, and several states require women who use drugs during pregnancy to undergo mandatory drug treatment. At least one state threatens criminal charges.
After your baby’s born, it’s not a good idea to use marijuana while you’re breastfeeding, either. THC and other chemicals in weed pass through your milk to your baby.