These Women Are Smoking Marijuana While Pregnant, and the Side Effects Could Be Severe

Medical marijuana has significantly lost its stigma in recent years, and recreational marijuana is legal in several states now.

But pregnant women are using marijuana at growing rates. We’ve uncovered the harmful side effects marijuana use while pregnant could have on babies, as well as who is most likely to use marijuana while pregnant (page 5).

Low birth weight

Baby boy sleeps wrapped in a white fuzzy blanket

THC can affect a baby’s birth weight. | iStock.com/KQconcepts

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed using synthetic marijuana, such as K2 or spice, could harm your baby’s physical development. These products have extremely high THC equivalents and could affect a baby’s birth weight and size. Pregnant women who used pot were 36% more likely to have anemia, according to Fit Pregnancy. And anemia can lead to premature birth or low birth weight for the baby.

According to NPR, a review of 31 studies on soon-to-be mothers found a link between marijuana use and preterm delivery or stillbirth. Furthermore, “… if the mother used cannabis during pregnancy, the likelihood of her infant needing to be placed in a neonatal ICU was two times higher,” Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services and author of a study published in the journal BMJ, told Fit Pregnancy.

Next: THC can affect your information processing and might do the same for your baby.

Developmental delays

Toddler is on the flight at an airplane

THC impacts the nervous system. | iStock.com/Radist

It turns out THC can severely affect the central nervous system’s development, as well. THC is the major psychoactive component of marijuana and interferes with your brain’s information-processing abilities, according to LiveScience. And that includes affecting the development of human embryos. THC can disrupt BDNF, an important neural pathway, which could “increase the risk of congenital disorder and can impair cognition as seen in autism,” according to Medical Daily.

Next: It could affect your baby’s attention abilities.

ADHD and other learning disabilities

smiling toddler sitting in a front-facing car seat

Could your child be at risk? | iStock.com

Long-term studies have shown that fetuses exposed to marijuana in utero may have an increased risk of attention deficit disorder or other cognitive effects. They may also be more prone to anxiety and depression, according to The Huffington Post.

“Prenatal cannabis disrupts synapses [nerve connections] critical for higher order executive and cognitive function,” Yasmin Hurd, a neuroscientist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told LiveScience.

Next: Why some pregnant women use marijuana

Weed curbs nausea and pain

Marijuana can treat nausea. | iStock.com

Cancer parents who undergo chemotherapy may use medical marijuana to treat resulting nausea. Some pregnant women experiencing morning sickness have begun to do the same. An unnamed mother told Vice how cannabis helped with her hyperemesis gravidarum, a pregnancy complication that results in nausea so severe most women have to be hospitalized.

“I was vomiting so much that I had to go to the emergency women at least once every week for IV rehydration,” she told Vice. “… The only time I ate during those months was the few times I was able to find someone to buy cannabis for me.”

Next: The demographic most likely to use weed while pregnant

18- to 25-year-olds are the biggest culprits

Toddler boy sleeping on father's laps while traveling in airplane

Young mothers use marijuana the most. | Yaoinlove/iStock/Getty Images

Statistics from the CDC revealed 1 in 25 U.S. women used marijuana while pregnant. And nearly 3.85% of pregnant mothers admitted to using marijuana in a 2014 study. However, women ages 18 to 25 appeared to be the biggest offenders, with 7.47% reporting marijuana use while pregnant.

Next: A concerning factor the studies revealed

The number of women using marijuana while pregnant is likely higher

happy couple cradling their sleeping newborn

There could be even more pregnant women using marijuana | Source: iStock

The researchers factored in underreporting because of the social bias and stigma of using marijuana. Most of the studies relied in part on the women self-reporting their drug use.

“That may mean that patients who do smoke but don’t tell their provider may be misclassified,” Shayna Connor, assistant professor in maternal fetal medicine and ultrasound at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, told NPR.

Next: So, what do doctors recommend?

Doctors recommend mothers avoid marijuana to be safe

Pregnant woman holding belly

It’s best not to use marijuana when you’re pregnant. | iStock.com/tamaravidmar

The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology offered guidelines when it comes to marijuana use for pregnant and nursing women. The organization recommends women stop using marijuana in any form while pregnant or trying to conceive. “There is an increased perception of the safety of cannabis use, even in pregnancy, without data to say it’s actually safe,” said Torri Metz, an obstetrician at Denver Health Medical Center.
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