Smoking Cannabis While Pregnant: Safe Or Are There Side Effects?

It may be an understatement to say that most healthcare providers in Canada and the US DO NOT recommend cannabis consumption at all during pregnancy.

In fact, it is recommended by The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that pregnant women and women looking to get pregnant in the near future, cease their consumption before and during their pregnancy.

Physicians generally agree that cannabis consumption – whether as edibles or through inhalation – can restrict the growth of the fetus and can increase incidences of miscarriage and birth defects. Cannabis can also have an impact on lactation and breastfeeding since it can be passed from the mother to the child via this process.

Anything that mothers put on their skin, whatever they eat, drink, or smoke will have an impact on the growing fetus and the same can be said for cannabis. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis, in particular, seems to have negative effects on brain development in fetuses.

Researchers say the THC in marijuana easily cross the placenta, exposing the fetus to about ten percent compound that the mother receives, and higher concentrations if pregnant women use pot repeatedly.

Cannabis has shown to also have an impact on a child’s executive functioning, where the brain is responsible for making decisions and thinking through consequences. Studies have shown children of mothers who consumed cannabis during pregnancy were impulsive, had attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders and had impaired visual problem-solving skills like trouble with a jigsaw puzzle. Though these effects did not transpire immediately, it was generally seen within about four years of age.

These children also presented with visual reasoning and short-term memory problems to the point where they end up using a different part of their brains for some of these tasks. Researchers from London, Ontario have suggested that babies who were exposed to cannabis in utero were three times more likely to have low birth weight.

Conflicting opinions for smoking in pregnancy

Although research in this topic has been pretty consistent in recent years, many women across Canada and the US, especially those who are younger in age, are turning to cannabis in the later stages of pregnancy to help manage their nausea and heightened anxiety.

With legalization approaching across North America, physicians are concerned about the impact this will have in delivery rooms across the continent and they encourage pregnant women to abstain completely from using the plant.

Women who may have used cannabis medicinally prior to pregnancy are encouraged to seek out other alternative therapy to combat their symptoms.

Women wondering about using cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, to curb morning sickness are still advised to stay away from the substance due to insufficient research.

However, it should be noted that in places like Maryland, midwives are prescribing cannabis to their patients, but again, the research is limited and they maintain that they only prescribe to low-risk pregnancies. Complicated pregnancies are not prescribed cannabis.

Even still, some midwives say that cannabis consumption during pregnancy can be hard to determine since, in most of these cases, usage of cannabis, alcohol, and cigarettes occur altogether.

There are also conflicting research that has come out recently in support of cannabis use in pregnancy which can confuse many women on whether they can use the substance without harming their children.

Physicians are hoping that the nationwide legalization about to take place in Canada will open more doors for research within the country that can lead to better understand cannabis in various pathologies, but also in pregnancy.

The hope is that with legalization, strains will be easier to examine, improving consistency in studies. And as stigma falls away, perhaps more people will feel encouraged enough to report or even participate in studies.