Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Lactation

Posted August 20, 2015 by Stacy Bolzenius

Marijuana Use during Lactation

With marijuana now legal in some parts of the United States, physicians may be facing more scenarios in which pregnant and lactating mothers are using cannabis. Marijuana use during pregnancy has been linked to a variety of health problems for babies, and the effects of marijuana during lactation is still being studied. Patients inclined to use marijuana during pregnancy or lactation should be made aware of the effects of marijuana on their baby.

Effects of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy

Babies are affected by marijuana use during pregnancy, even if the marijuana use is in very small amounts. In addition, while passive marijuana use might affect the baby, these effects are still unknown. Exposure to marijuana in any form during pregnancy–passive or direct–is discouraged. Some of the possible side effects of marijuana use during pregnancy include:

  • Small size
  • Low birth weight
  • Still birth or miscarriage
  • Premature birth

Effects of Marijuana on Fetal Development

In addition, fetal marijuana exposure has been linked to an increased risk for a variety of health problems later in life. These risks include:

  • Asthma
  • Breathing problems
  • Childhood cancers
  • Behavioral problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Academic delays

Effects of Marijuana Use During Lactation

When breastfeeding mothers use marijuana, the psychoactive ingredient known as THC is excreted into the breast milk in small quantities. THC may be stored in the fatty tissue of breastfeeding babies for many days after consumption.

Studies on the effect of THC in infants have not shown conclusive results. One study in particular has determined that regular marijuana use during lactation could impact a child’s motor development. However, there have been studies showing no real link between babies who are exposed to THC through breast milk and those who were not. That being said, the presence of THC in breast milk as well as a baby’s fatty tissue tells us that there still may be effects that are still unknown.

Talking to Your Patients about Marijuana Use

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women should be questioned about their use of marijuana. Breastfeeding and pregnant mothers who admit to marijuana use should be discouraged from continuing this behavior. Women using marijuana for medicinal purposes or to relieve anxieties should be encouraged to pursue alternative treatments.

For more information on women’s health, attend an upcoming OBGYN seminar. Perinatal Resources is now accepting registrations for the Columbus Comprehensive Review on September 19-26. We’re also accepting registrations for our Annual Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology in Kissimmee, FL on October 12-16. Attending an OBGYN seminar can keep you informed on the issues of women’s health and can impact your practice in a variety of positive ways. Contact us today for more information.