Can Using Cannabis During Pregnancy Harm My Child?

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The legalization of recreational marijuana has coincided with an increase in pregnant people who report marijuana use and test positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) during pregnancy. It is important that pregnant people are aware of the potential risk to the fetus.

Can Using Cannabis During Pregnancy Harm My Child?

The short answer is “yes.” There is every indication that cannabis use after the first four or five weeks of pregnancy contributes to slowed growth and changes in neurological development.

Understanding that it is not possible to correct for all environmental factors, major medical organizations continue to caution pregnant people against using marijuana during pregnancy.

Quitting marijuana is the best way to ensure that your child is born healthy. You can receive help for chemical dependency through an addiction treatment program for pregnant women.

What Risks Are Associated With Marijuana Use In Pregnancy?

There are a number of risks associated with marijuana use during pregnancy. These risks include short-term risks during pregnancy and long-term risks for the child’s neurological development.

Short-Term Risks

Prenatal marijuana use is associated with low birth weight as well as higher rates of preterm labor and stillbirth.

Babies born to mothers who used cannabis during pregnancy were more likely to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and were more likely to have a low Apgar score.

Long-Term Risks

Extended studies following the children of mothers who used cannabis during pregnancy found that these children were more likely to display signs of abnormal neurological development.

These signs included reduced capacity for some executive function tasks but were not connected to any negative effects on overall intelligence.

The affected neurological functions include:

  • memory
  • attention
  • impulse control
  • visual problem-solving

These particular deficits may partially contribute to the higher rates of behavioral disorders, mental illness, and substance abuse among children who were exposed to cannabis in utero.

Studies On Maternal Cannabis Use

There are a number of studies dedicated to the use of cannabis during pregnancy that go back as far as the 1970s. As with many older scientific studies, several are highly problematic.

With that said, the legalization of cannabis use in many states has made it easier for scientists to study this particular subject.

One of the most recent studies on the effects of maternal cannabis use is the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, which encompasses a wide range of subjects.

Additional Factors To Consider

While recent studies do a significantly better job of providing unbiased results, it is important to note that they are unable to completely isolate marijuana use from other environmental factors.

Pregnant people who use cannabis are also significantly more likely to:

  • be unemployed
  • be under the age of 25
  • live under the poverty line
  • experience domestic violence
  • have less than a high school education
  • receive less-than-ideal prenatal care
  • struggle with their mental health
  • abuse additional substances like alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs

It is quite possible that one or more of these factors also contribute to the developmental complications attributed to marijuana use.

Even so, there is a strong enough correlation among pregnant people who use marijuana but do not fit these other criteria to caution against cannabis use during pregnancy.

For people with fewer financial resources, there are free rehab centers that can help treat addiction during pregnancy.

Current Recommendations For Pregnant People Who Use Cannabis

It is the position of both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that pregnant people should cease all cannabis use.

There is some debate over whether cannabis is conventionally addictive, but the general consensus is that people can develop a dependency.

If you or a loved one is pregnant and struggling to quit using marijuana, you can get help with detox during pregnancy at an appropriately licensed detox center.

Marijuana And Breastfeeding

There is less research related to marijuana use during breastfeeding. Without more information, both the AAP and ACOG recommend that women do not use cannabis while breastfeeding.

If you are using marijuana to combat postpartum depression (PPD) while you breastfeed, then it is vital that you speak to a qualified treatment provider to get dedicated mental health care.

PPD is a serious health condition. Depending on your case, you may be unable to breastfeed while taking medication for PPD, but your healthcare team can connect you with helpful resources.

Get Treatment For Marijuana Dependency Today

People who use marijuana regularly often find it difficult to stop using it. If you need help with addiction or chemical dependency treatment, call to learn about your options.


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