Can I use Cannabis while Pregnant?
Pregnancy is a rewarding but trying time full of changes and stressors for any expectant mother. It’s important to pay special attention to health for both the baby and mothers sake! One thing that expectant mothers should be wary of consuming is cannabis. Being aware of the potentially harmful effects of cannabis on a healthy pregnancy and a baby’s development is important. Unfortunately, extensive research into how cannabis affects people in general and especially pregnant mothers is lacking. Therefore, for now, mothers should assume the only safe amount of cannabis to use while pregnant or breastfeeding is zero.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2 to 5 percent of American women use cannabis during pregnancy and in some urban demographics, there is a higher usage, reaching up to 28 percent. While the statistics of women using cannabis while pregnant in Canada are unavailable, the numbers will probably be the same if not higher.
How Cannabis Affects Pregnant Women
Cannabinoids affect the body through type 1 and type 2 cannabinoid receptors which are part of the endocannabinoid system. To learn more about the endocannabinoid system click HERE. If a pregnant woman consumes cannabis, it might affect both behavioural and developmental growth in the child. The endocannabinoid system is has been detected from the early stages of embryonic development, sometimes as early as 5 weeks, and has been found to play an essential role in the early stages of brain development of the baby. Some studies have shown that the use of cannabis during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding, may be associated with increased risk for the following issues:
● Low birth weight
● Premature labor
● Cardiovascular disease
● Mental health issues
Research has indicated cannabis use in pregnant woman can cause short and long-term learning issues, and development and behavioral issues including low IQ scores, impulsivity and hyperactivity in childhood, some of which may persist into adulthood.
Cannabis and pregnancy research is largely outdated.
However much of the previous studies are over 30 years old and much has been learned about cannabis and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating ingredient in cannabis, in particular. Researchers are working hard to understand the science, but we’re just not there yet. The Canadian government is looking at funding more research so hopefully, we’ll have more answers to how cannabis affects pregnant women soon.
Research into Pregnancy and Cannabis
At this point in time, there is not enough clinical evidence to accurately determine the consequences of using cannabis while pregnant. Too little is known about the long-term consequences in both mother and child, therefore, it’s wise to use caution.
Since the late 1980s, researchers have known that THC can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. More recently, researchers have found that THC is also secreted in breast milk up to six days after last use. This means the fetus is exposed to THC; the concerns about cannabis’ health effects during pregnancy and lactation stem mainly from this fact.
There are a few reasons why the research base on cannabis in pregnancy is so limited and inconclusive. Most evidence we have on cannabis and fetal health impact come from research on smoking — and there are many ways people ingest cannabis nowadays, through edibles, oils, and vaporization, come to mind.
The studies out there also tend to be small, without enough statistical power to accurately detect relationships, often relying on self-reported data, which is flawed when it comes to cannabis use.
What to Do If You’re Thinking About Getting Pregnant
If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, start prenatal care early. It is recommended you stop using cannabis immediately. When you use cannabis, the THC gets absorbed into the fat in your body, and so there’s a reservoir there that keeps getting released slowly, enough that you will find trace amounts of THC in the blood well after initial usage. It is unknown exactly how this trace amount affect pregnancy if at all but again, it is best to play it safe for the health of both the baby and the mother.
Other Areas Cannabis use may negatively affect a person:
● Ability to get pregnant
● Menstrual cycle
● Sperm count and quality
Does Cannabis Usage Affect Breastfeeding?
After pregnancy, a woman may wonder if it’s safe to use cannabis while breastfeeding. The body metabolizes cannabis very slowly which means cannabis that entered into the bloodstream weeks ago can still get into the breast milk.
Research typically focuses on how much cannabis reached the baby, and whether it is harmful. Many older studies have shown that cannabis does pass to the baby and may have adverse effects. To limit potential risk to the infant, breastfeeding mothers should avoid cannabis use altogether.
Paediatricians and doctors can educate expecting mothers about the potential negative consequences of cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There is worry is that legalization of cannabis may give the false impression that cannabis is safe in all situations when this is not necessarily the case. As always, please consult your doctor before making any decision about cannabis use. For the latest information about cannabis please subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media.