We all know that consuming alcohol and smoking cigarettes while pregnant are big no-nos.
But what about smoking weed while pregnant? Does it fall into the same basket as alcohol and tobacco? Or, is cannabis actually safe to smoke or eat while pregnant?
Controversies Around Weed Use During Pregnancy
When you examine the current statistics, there are more and more soon-to-be moms admitting to using weed while pregnant. Most pregnant women polled used weed to help with their crippling morning sickness, and control hormone-induced mood swings. Some used cannabis to slow down their brain when trying to fall asleep.
Even though the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays an important role in the development of the fetus, most pediatric organizations and researchers suggest that future mothers abstain from cannabis before, during, and shortly after pregnancy. They claim weed can negatively impact the development of the fetus, may cause low birth weight, and possibly slow the academic progress of teens who were exposed to cannabis during the prenatal stage. Below you will find an example of smoking while pregnant handouts at hospitals and clinics.
Why Do Women Consume Weed while Pregnant?
While your family physician is unlikely to prescribe weed for the pregnancy symptoms, your local budtender might not have any issues with selling you some medical cannabis to give you some relief. There was a recent survey of dispensaries in Colorado, and 69% of the budtenders recommend using weed to help with morning sickness. Thirty-six percent of them said it was safe to consume weed products during pregnancy.
Pregnancy symptoms alleviated by cannabis include:
- Constant Mood swings
- Sleep interuptions
- Morning sickness
- Lack of appetite
- Aches and pains
In 2015 there was a study found that 70% of pregnant women in the U.S. who admitted to using weed products believed that there was little or no risk of harm from using weed a couple of times a week.
Why Are Researchers Concerned About Using Marijuana During Pregnancy?
While marijuana can be helpful to pregnant women for relief of their morning sickness and other pregnancy symptoms, researchers are not sure if it can be beneficial to the fetus as well.
In fact, most scientists believe that cannabis is bad for unborn babies.
Here’s some of known and suspected dangers of using weed while pregnant:
- The active cannabinoids in weed pass will from your system to your baby’s system.
- Smoking cannabis elevates carbon monoxide levels in your body. This can reduce the intake of oxygen to supply the developing fetus, affecting its growth.
- Using cannabis while pregnant may contribute to low baby birth weight.
- It may cause abnormal neurological development.
- Weed may reduce academic achievements of adolescents who were breast fed by weed consuming mothers.
- Baby’s exposed to weed during pregnancy have an increased chance to develop psychological disorders.
Study results for effects of Weed on Low Birth Weight & Preterm Labor
Weed use while pregnant significantly increased your chances for negative birth outcomes, These included:
- Low birth weight. (375 g/.8 lbs lighter)
- preterm child birth
- small fetus size for gestational age (how far along you are)
- More visits to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).”
Although the researchers had accounted for multi-drug use and the socioeconomic status of their study volunteers, the method of data acquisition was questionable.
As a result of expecting moms not wanting to be referred to a special clinic for abusing hard drugs, many of them lied. This skewed the results of the study. Many mothers who had low birth weight babies were in fact in that category. It was because of methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin use, not the weed.
Other similar studies seem to back up this theory. Polling showed that only 7% of women admitted to using cannabis during pregnancy. Medical studies measuring weed use by self-reporting or urine screens show a percentage range of 8% to 29%.
Study Results for Inferior Neurodevelopment caused by smoking weed while pregnant.
A 2011 study found that THC molecules bind to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors instead of the body’s natural endocannabinoid system. Thus theorizing that THC can cause neurons to develop abnormally in the brain of the fetus.
Interestingly, a different study, from 2015, measured the children who were exposed to cannabis in the womb. It investigated their ability to perceive the big picture, rather than focusing only on the specific aspects. The study examined this skill in over 100 – 4.5-year-old toddlers who had been exposed to different drugs, such as alcohol, nicotine, methamphetamine, and cannabis before being born along with 25 unexposed children.
While the results showed impairment by prenatal exposure to other drugs and alcohol, it was significantly improved by exposure to weed. Even better actually, the children exposed to weed in the absence of booze scored almost 50% better than the 25 unexposed children.
Study for Lower Academic Achievements caused by smoking weed while pregnant
According to a 2011 research paper, first-trimester exposure to marihuana significantly diminished the academic achievement scores of adolescents.
The study did take into account most of the possible variables: prenatal alcohol consumption, cigarettes, and other illicit drug exposure. However, the presence of the factors that must occur to cause the observed effects — makes the research method anything but accurate.
The factors mentioned in the study were:
Depression at 10 years of age.
Lower IQ scores than average at 6 years old
Attention deficit disorder at 10 years old
Early consumption of weed before puberty.
Given that the children in the study were exposed to abnormal circumstances, or were diminished in a way that didn’t result from weed use during pregnancy it was many factors that caused their poorer academic achievement.
Study linking weed use while pregnant to Increased chance of Developing Mental Illnesses
Many people with underlying mental issues can become mentally ill over time, and this has long been linked to smoking weed during pregnancy. Harvard and the Boston VA examined the possible connection between the development of schizophrenia in teens whose parents smoked cannabis.
They looked at almost 300 subjects from the Boston and the New York area, gathering data on over a thousand first-degree relatives and a total of over 4,200 relatives. They recorded the information regarding the family’s history of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar, as well as marijuana use.
Here’s their conclusion:
“Having an increased family risk for schizophrenia is the underlying basis for schizophrenia in these samples — not the cannabis use.”
Weed While Pregnant: Is It actually Safe?
To be totally honest, we can’t tell right now.
Many expecting moms use weed to deal with unpleasant symptoms of being pregnant, especially during the first trimester. Some of them swear their weed-affected kids have turned out more intelligent, calmer, and have shown increased cognitive functioning when compared to their ‘unaffected’ brothers or sisters.
No matter the evidence or lack thereof, medical, family and pediatric groups around the globe prefer to play it safe by saying that weed is actually harmful to the unborn child. They ignore that it can help women deal with their struggles during pregnancy. If this is to be your first baby, then you just might want to play the safe card as well.
What we can say is that the research that has given rise to this negative opinion on using weed during pregnancy is often based on inaccurate methods. To go with that, there are always contradictory research studies showing no negative impact on children whose mothers have been using weed while pregnant. Some of those studies are even in stark contrast to the negative findings. Good luck with your new baby and take care of yourself to help your unborn child.
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