Research on how marijuana use can alter a pregnancy, both for mother and child, is still in its infancy. It is clear however that is better to smoke marijuana during pregnancy than to smoke cigarettes or to drink. As marijuana use becomes more common, both through medicinal marijuana and recreational legalization in some states, it is important more research continues to be done on the topic.
Other than the mother simply enjoying marijuana use, there is one possible medical benefit for the mother if she uses marijuana. Marijuana has been proven through its use with chemotherapy patients to reduce nausea significantly. A common occurrence, particularly during the first trimester is “morning sickness” or nausea upon waking. Some doctors have been known to prescribe medicinal marijuana to combat these symptoms. Others argue it is not worth the risk and marijuana use may harm the child.
Three potential side effects of marijuana use during pregnancy are commonly cited. The first is an increased chance of stillbirth. Some studies indicate marijuana use during pregnancy may increase the possibility of stillbirth by up to three times. The results of these studies are confounded by other compounds typically found in recreational drug users. Since people who smoke marijuana during pregnancy are more likely to smoke tobacco, drink and use opioids, the studies are difficult to control.
Another related side effect is lower birth weight. Some sources cite that women who smoke marijuana during pregnancy are, 77% more likely to have babies with lower birth rates. These babies are also more likely to have to spend time in the intensive care unit. Again these studies are confounded by the fact that mothers who smoke marijuana during pregnancy may be more likely to be malnourished themselves.
The final, and perhaps most distressing potential side effect of marijuana use amongst pregnant mothers is the inhibition of their babies’ brain development. It is unclear how, but it is suspected marijuana may affect brain development in adolescents including in unborn infants. Studies involve young rats show, their problem-solving ability and memory may be negatively affected by marijuana use. It is hypothesized that the brains THC receptors may alter synapse formation when activated during a formative period.
Misconceptions And Need For Future Research
Some women believe the dangerous aspect of marijuana during pregnancy is that it is smoked. They then try to circumvent this by eating or vaping marijuana. Since it is the actual THC which may be stemming brain development, this is not a safe assumption.
Marijuana is quickly becoming more popular. Medicinal marijuana programs have been instituted in many states, and marijuana has been legalized in several others. As the availability and social acceptance of marijuana increases, it is vital that mothers have accurate information about how this drug affects them and their children during pregnancy. At the moment, most doctors do not believe marijuana use is worth the risk during pregnancy, even to counteract severe nausea.