Pregnant or breastfeeding? Or even just thinking about getting pregnant? Stay away from marijuana in all its forms. That’s the word from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. ACOG notes that pot use during pregnancy has been linked to low birth weights and an increased risk of stillbirths. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “using marijuana while breastfeeding can allow harmful chemicals to pass from the mother to the infant through breast milk or secondhand smoke exposure.”
But the word on the street may be a different story. Studies show a sharp increase in marijuana use by pregnant women. In one group of moms-to-be in California, from 2009 through 2016, its use climbed from 12.5% to 21.8% among pregnant teens younger than 18, and among women 18 to 24, it jumped from 9.8% to 19%.
Many claim that pot helps with nausea, pain, depression, and anxiety — all common parts of the prenatal and postpartum experience. Marijuana is also commonly perceived as “natural,” “herbal,” “medicinal,” and therefore safe.
Marijuana dispensaries may be contributing to this misconception. A recent report on marijuana use in Colorado cites a University of Colorado School of Medicine study, which found that nearly 70 percent of 400 dispensaries surveyed recommended cannabis use for first-trimester morning sickness.
Do you work with pregnant women and breastfeeding moms? Use these tip sheets and other resources to help them understand the importance of abstaining from marijuana:
- Resources from the California Department of Public Health’s Let’s Talk Cannabis campaign:
- Resources from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (suitable for parents anywhere):
- Marijuana fact sheets in multiple languages, including “Marijuana and Your Baby,” “Youth and Marijuana,” and “Tips for Parents”
- Talking points and guidance on what to say to parents (includes prenatal and postpartum scripts)
In April, LABBN’s Executive Director Margaret Lynn Yonekura, MD, conducted this webinar for home visitors and others in L.A. County’s Family Strengthening Network, which helps pregnant women and new parents ensure the health and safety of their babies:
Also see Can marijuana use during and after pregnancy harm the baby? from NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, which summarizes key research studies and includes over 100 references. Is Smoking Pot While Pregnant Safe for the Baby? (NPR, 1/29/18) covers the trend of increased usage and summarizes the risks. More studies:
- The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the dopamine system (Nature, 11/17/16 )
- Medical marijuana: An oxymoron and a risk to fetuses by Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM (Contemporary OB/GYN, March 2017)
- Committee Opinion No. 637: Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Lactation. – PubMed – NCBI (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Obstetric Practice, Obstet Gynecol, 2015)
- The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (National Academy of Sciences, 1/12/17). See Chapter 10: Prenatal, Perinatal, and Neonatal Exposure to Cannabis.
Articles about this study: 11 key findings from one of the most comprehensive reports ever on the health effects of marijuana (Business Insider, 1/12/17) and New report summarizes marijuana health impacts (Kent Reporter, 1/31/17)
- The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (2017) (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine)
- Socioeconomic Status and Adverse Birth Outcomes: A Population-Based Canadian Sample (study showing low birth weight is up to three times more likely when mothers smoke marijuana while pregnant) (Journal of Biosocial Science, 3/8/17)
The Trend of Increased Usage
- As marijuana use rises, doctors warn pregnant women (Kaiser Health News via CNN, 2/15/18)
- Trends in Self-reported and Biochemically Tested Marijuana Use Among Pregnant Females in California From 2009-2016 (JAMA, 12/26/17). News reports on that study:
- More pregnant women are using pot, study finds (CNN, 12/27/18)
- Marijuana Use During Pregnancy: Here’s How Much It Has Risen (Forbes, 12-27-17)
- Study of California women finds 1 in 14 used pot during pregnancy (Los Angeles Times, 12-27-17)
- Survey: Pot Smoking Common Among Pregnant Teens (MedlinePlus, 4/17/17)
- Understanding Marijuana – Various Resources (Dialogue4Health, 11/14/17)
- ‘Marijuana moms’ say smoking pot makes them better parents (Today.com, 8-1-17)