Hazards of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Marijuana is the dried leaves, flowers, and stems of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant’s active ingredients (cannabinoids), including a chemical called THC, change the chemistry of the brain.
Marijuana smoke also has many of the same chemicals as cigarette smoke that cause breathing problems.
Marijuana gets into your blood through your lungs when you smoke it and through your digestive system when you swallow it.
Using marijuana in any form may be harmful for you and your baby when you are trying to become pregnant and during pregnancy. This includes marijuana that is prescribed to you by a health care provider (medical marijuana).
Once marijuana is in your blood, it can travel through your placenta to your baby. It may also pass through breast milk.
How does Marijuana Use affect me?
Marijuana affects you both mentally and physically. Using marijuana can make you feel high and relaxed. It can also have negative effects, especially at high doses or with long-term use. These include:
- Rapid heartbeat and stress on your heart.
- Lung irritation and breathing problems.
- Difficulty thinking and making decisions.
- Seeing or believing things that are not true (hallucinations and paranoia).
- Mood swings, depression, or anxiety.
- Decreased ability to learn and remember.
- Difficulty getting pregnant.
Marijuana can also affect your pregnancy. Not all the effects are known. However, if you use marijuana during pregnancy, you may:
- Be less likely to get regular prenatal care and do the things that you need to do to have a healthy pregnancy.
- Be more likely to use other drugs that can harm your pregnancy, like drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
- Be at higher risk of having your baby die after 28 weeks of pregnancy (stillbirth).
- Be at higher risk of giving birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy (premature birth).
How does this affect my baby?
If you use marijuana during pregnancy, this may affect your baby’s development, birth, and life after birth. Your baby may:
- Be born prematurely, which can cause physical and mental problems.
- Be born with a low birth weight, which can lead to physical and mental problems.
- Have problems with brain development.
- Have difficulty growing.
- Have attention and behavior problems later in life.
- Do poorly at school and have learning problems later in life.
- Have problems with vision and coordination.
- Be at higher risk for using marijuana by age 14.
More research is needed to find out exactly how marijuana affects a baby during breastfeeding. Some studies suggest that the chemicals in marijuana can be passed to a baby through breast milk. To limit possible risks, you should not use marijuana during breastfeeding.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Let your health care provider know if you use marijuana before trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy, or during breastfeeding.
- Do not use marijuana in any form when you are trying to get pregnant, when you are pregnant, or when you are breastfeeding. If you are having trouble stopping marijuana use, ask your health care provider for help.
- Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider for help.
- If you are using medical marijuana, ask your health care provider to switch you to a medicine that is safer to use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
- Keep all your prenatal visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.
Seek Additional Information
Contact a health care provider if:
- You use marijuana and want to get pregnant.
- You use marijuana during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
- You need help stopping marijuana use.
Get help right away if:
- Your baby is not gaining weight or growing as expected.
- Using marijuana in any form may be harmful for you and your baby when you are trying to become pregnant, during pregnancy, and during breastfeeding. This includes marijuana that is prescribed to you (medical marijuana).
- Some studies suggest that marijuana may pass through breast milk and can affect your baby’s brain development.
- Talk to your health care provider if you use marijuana in any form while trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.
- Ask your health care provider for help if you are not able to stop using marijuana.