Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug during pregnancy in the U.S., and marijuana use is on the rise among all adult age groups, both sexes, and pregnant women.
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, even as some states have legalized it for recreational and medicinal use. In addition, a growing number of pregnant women view it as a safe, natural way to treat nausea and vomiting, or “morning sickness.”
But marijuana use during pregnancy is not safe and comes with serious, potentially deadly risks. It also comes with risks for non-pregnant people.
Avoiding marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding can give your baby a healthier start in life.
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Health Effects of Marijuana During Pregnancy
No amount of marijuana has been proven safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its first official guidelines, advising women who are pregnant or nursing to avoid marijuana use because it isn’t safe for them or their children.
Whether smoked, eaten in food (edibles), or vaped, marijuana is stronger than ever before, which makes use during pregnancy especially risky for a developing baby’s health. Marijuana contains nearly 500 chemicals, including the mind-altering compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These chemicals can pass through a woman’s placenta to her baby during pregnancy.
Studies show that marijuana use during pregnancy may be harmful to a baby’s health and cause a variety of problems, including:
Fetal growth restriction (when a baby doesn’t gain the appropriate amount of weight before birth).
A greater risk of stillbirth
Preterm birth (being born before 37 weeks of gestation)
Low birth weight
Long-term brain development issues affecting memory, learning, and behavior
Marijuana in Breast Milk
Marijuana use while breastfeeding also comes with risk of harms to the baby.
THC and other chemicals in marijuana can be passed to a baby through breast milk, increasing the baby’s risk for problems with brain development.
Talk to your doctor, midwife, or other provider to learn more about the risks of marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as safe treatment options for morning sickness.
If you, or someone you know, need help to stop using substances – whether the problem is methamphetamine, alcohol or another drug – call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889, or text your zip code to 435748 (HELP4U), or use the SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to get help.
References and Relevant Resources
- Drug Facts: Marijuana | NIDA
- National Survey on Drug Use and Health | SAMHSA
- Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Implications for Neonatal and Childhood Outcomes | American Academy of Pediatrics
- What You Need to Know About Marijuana Use and Pregnancy | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Technology Transfer Centers (TTC) Program