Can Prenatal Cannabis Affect Your Infant’s Growth?
Cannabis use has become a very controversial topic all over the globe. While its medical use is legal in some states in America, marijuana is still widely considered an illicit drug in the US, which is why it comes as a surprise that prenatal cannabis use does exist. In fact, it is even used commonly among a huge percentage of pregnant women in the country.
Cannabis: Its Widespread Use among Pregnant Women
Marijuana turns out to be the most commonly used illicit substance among expectant mothers. In fact, about 1 in 20 women in America reports to using cannabis while she is pregnant.
While each mother has her own reasons for taking the substance, some mothers, in particular, smoke marijuana to quell morning sickness, which usually peaks during the first trimester, as well as to eliminate other discomforts that arise during pregnancy. Some would-be moms smoke pot, while others take the substance through marijuana-laced edibles.
According to a New York Times article, from among the hundreds of expectant mothers who used marijuana, roughly half of them who were asked reported to have used the substance for a medical reason. Most felt that cannabis has not affected their child’s health in any way, while others were not entirely sure.
Unfortunately, only a handful of these parents are worried that their children’s cognitive development may be negatively affected because these mothers use marijuana. Looking at the facts, how does cannabis truly affect pregnancy and children after birth?
How Cannabis Affects Pregnancy
The truth is this: marijuana use during pregnancy has been found out to cause health problems among newborns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breathing marijuana smoke, in particular, can bring bad effects to the mother and the baby, as marijuana smoke contains the same chemicals found in tobacco smoke that interfere with an infant’s growth and development.
Specifically, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical found in marijuana, can easily pass through the pregnant mother’s system and into her baby, harming his development in the process.
Although there is still a lack of human research relating cannabis use to one’s chances of miscarriage, there have been animal studies that show an increased risk for miscarriage among mothers who used marijuana early in their pregnancy. There have also been some studies that link its use during pregnancy to future developmental delays and hyperactivity disorders among children. Other conditions that prenatal cannabis use has been linked to are low birth weight and premature birth, especially in cases where cannabis is used in a long-term basis.
Cannabis and Its Impact after Giving Birth
Pregnancy tests and screenings with the use of ultrasound technology can provide information about the health of your baby and help you optimize your child’s prenatal care and development. However, most cannabis users usually fail to steer clear from using the substance while pregnant since certain birth defects cannot be predicted right from the start. Therefore, they are unaware of the gravity of its effects on their children in the future.
Human research has found out that some babies who were prenatally exposed to cannabis displayed altered responses when stimulated visually, showing increased trembling and crying in a high-pitched tone—which are both signs of a neurological problem. In school, children who have been exposed to marijuana while they were still in the womb are likely to show difficulty in remaining attentive as well as in problem-solving situations.
Marijuana and Breastfeeding
Some data states that marijuana contains chemicals that can be passed on to a newborn through the mother’s breast milk. THC can be stored in fat and may slowly be released from the mother’s body even after she stops using marijuana. This means that your baby can still be exposed to the substance over a long time.
Although data on the effects of cannabis use among lactating mothers are limited and conflicting, most medical professionals still prohibit the use of marijuana among breastfeeding mothers to limit potential risk on their child.
What the Experts Say
Because of the numerous studies and researches that link prenatal cannabis use to adverse effects in a child’s health and development, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists highly discourages the use of marijuana in any way during pregnancy. Aside from the many negative conditions that it is linked with, marijuana has not yet been regulated nor evaluated in the country by the Food and Drug Administration, which means that the substance has no approved indications, recommendations, and safety precautions of its use during pregnancy.
Moreover, since the effects of cannabis use may be as detrimental as those of alcohol consumption or cigarette smoking, experts recommend that marijuana be avoided by those who are pregnant or are planning to conceive. For those who use marijuana and suspect that they are pregnant, use a pregnancy test kit to confirm if you are conceiving, and go to your obstetrician or gynecologist for proper screening and appropriate interventions, which may be in the form of proper education, medical treatment, and available support systems.
While mothers should have full control over how they choose to raise their children, it is important not to rely on things that don’t have any proven effects, especially if it concerns your children’s health and overall well-being.