As more and more states legalize marijuana, the number of Americans visiting weed dispensaries — to help them cope with physical or mental health symptoms or for recreational use — is expected to grow. It's already happening in some demographics, research shows. More pregnant people are using marijuana than earlier in the decade, a 2017 study found, especially in younger age groups.
On the one hand, it makes sense. Some people report that marijuana helps ease nausea and pain, both of which can occur during pregnancy. But is it safe? To answer that question, we dug into the current research around marijuana use during pregnancy.
Is smoking weed while pregnant bad?
"We don't have all the research, but there's enough there to warrant saying that you should not use marijuana while pregnant," said Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, PhD, who led a study exploring the use of weed among pregnant women, to ScienceDaily.
That's why professional organizations agree — it's best to avoid it. "The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, all say that marijuana in any form should not be used in pregnancy and lactation," stresses Laszlo Mechtler, MD, medical director of the DENT Cannabis Clinic and medical director of Jushi, a cannabis company.
What if it's medical marijuana?
The same rules apply to medical marijuana as recreational marijuana — it could harm to fetus, so it's best to avoid. That said, people who have been using MJ medically to cope with a mental or physical health problem, such as a chronic pain condition, should come up with an interim treatment plan.
"There's a group of women who are using marijuana that have these other chronic conditions, and we need to help them manage those," Barbosa-Leiker told ScienceDaily.
People who use medical marijuana and plan to get pregnant should speak to their doctor about how to protect their own own health and the health of their fetus during pregnancy.
What are the effects of smoking weed when pregnant?
For the fetus, daily marijuana use during pregnancy may lead to "an increased risk of low birth weight, low resistance to infection, decreased oxygen levels and other negative fetal health outcomes," according to recent study from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In the most severe cases, delayed growth can lead to stillbirth.
To get this information, physicians reviewed sonogram data from almost 450 pregnant women, who reported using marijuana daily during their pregnancy.
"For the mother, the main risks are the same as for any person that smokes cannabis," Barbosa-Leiker told Refinery29. Some examples are "cognitive issues, respiratory issues, the risk of developing a cannabis use disorder, experiencing negative withdrawal symptoms when cannabis is not in the body." Right now, during the coronavirus pandemic, smoking marijuana has other risks — namely, increased odds of developing severe symptoms of the disease, if you get it.
When should you stop smoking weed while pregnant?
If you're a regular weed smoker or you're prescribed medical marijuana and you want to avoid any of the negative side effects mentioned above, you should stop smoking weed as soon as you know for a fact that you're pregnant, says Barbosa-Leiker.
But again, if you use medical marijuana to treat a health condition, you may want to consult your healthcare provider about quitting. "For those that are using for pain management and other medical reasons, work with your healthcare provider to decrease your use and try to stop completely during pregnancy," says Barbosa-Leiker. You can start talking with your doctor about your options once you start trying to get pregnant, so you'll already have an alternate plan in place once you conceive.
Are there any laws about smoking weed while pregnant?
Federally, it's still illegal for anyone to smoke weed — pregnant or not — regardless of state law. There may be additional consequences for those who are pregnant. "If the baby is born with any abnormalities, they'll do a tox screen," explains Dr. Mechtler. "On the tox screen, if you're tested positive for THC, then Child Protective Services will be called to evaluate the situation."
That's obviously a severe situation, but of course, when it comes to your own health and the health of your child, most people would agree that it's better safe than sorry.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws.