Is It Safe To Use Cannabis While Pregnant?
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Is It Safe To Use Cannabis While Pregnant?

3 min
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While there will likely never be human trials on cannabis and developing embryos, associated research has already identified significant risks to both moms and babies from smoking cannabis while pregnant. This includes the risk of miscarriage and other long-term effects on the child.

The universal impact of cannabis on women’s health, in general, is positive. The monthly pain that comes with menstruation appears to be one such area where cannabis compounds can be particularly effective. However, there is one time in a woman’s life when she should not consume any kind of cannabinoid. And that is when she is pregnant.

Why Might A Mom-To-Be Turn To Cannabis?

Pregnancy can be an exciting nine months. A new life is growing. However, for many women, pregnancy is also fraught with severe side effects. These include pain, nausea, and anxiety, among others.

While cannabis can be used to control nausea, this is an absolute no-go for expectant moms. Some midwives have suggested that cannabis could be good for treating morning sickness. Or even pregnancy-related anxiety. But scientific evidence - from multiple studies - has already shown this to be a bad idea. While the mom might experience short-term symptom relief, the effects on the baby can be serious, and perhaps even lifelong.

Health Concerns Raised By Using Cannabis During Pregnancy


There is considerable evidence that cannabis use during pregnancy can cause birth defects. This includes anencephaly. This is a neural tube defect that causes serious brain malformation. Anencephaly is a rare condition, yet children born to marijuana smokers showed a much higher rate of defect. A 2014 study of 20,000 cases between 1997 and 2005 found that rates of anencephaly were doubled in pot-smoking moms.

In 2011, an Australian study of 25,000 women found that babies born to mothers who used cannabis were twice as likely to end up in neonatal intensive care.

Many other studies have also found conclusively that cannabis use increases the risk of low birth weight. Some studies have even found evidence of smaller head sizes. This is also known as a condition called Microcephaly, more commonly linked to the Zika virus.

Women who use cannabis also appear to have a higher risk of going into premature labour. The associated effects on children from cannabis use during pregnancy are dire enough to give any mom-to-be pause before ingesting cannabis. These effects are lifelong. The reason appears to be the impact of THC on the developing brain.

For example, a 10-year Canadian study on four-year-old children found that cannabis use during gestation appeared to impact memory. Cannabis kids scored lower on memory tests, although, overall intelligence appeared not to be impacted. When tested again at 10 years of age, the same children showed slightly increased rates of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity.

Mice studies conducted in 2014 also showed that THC exposure in utero altered connections between brain cells. Other studies have shown fairly conclusively that marijuana can alter human foetal development, especially between 18 and 22 weeks.

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Marijuana is also known to have an impact on the development of the brain’s neurotransmitters, biochemistry, and intake of oxygen. A 2017 report even found that THC could negatively impact the structure of the foetus’ eyes as well as overall vision.

Finally, cannabis can alter heart rate. And because cannabis can stay in the human system for up to 30 days, the impact on the foetus might be considerably longer than so-far understood.

A comprehensive report on the overall impact of cannabinoids on pregnancy by the Massachusetts General Hospital in 2017 is equally dire. It found that cannabis can impact fertility. THC can also impair fallopian tube mobility. Why? Cannabinoids affect muscle movements in the fallopian tube. In turn, this raises the chances of an ectopic pregnancy. That is when a child is grown outside the womb. The study also found that cannabinoids may increase the possibility of miscarriage for similar reasons. Data also indicated that cannabis consumption by the mother impacts folic acid uptake, cellular growth, and neural development.

The ultimate summary? Pregnant moms should absolutely stay away from cannabis. And while there have yet to be widely conclusive studies, the evidence is already alarming. Low birth weight and preterm delivery are highly associated with cannabis use.

Does Cannabis Cause Physical Birth Defects?

The jury is out on this one, and for several reasons. There simply has not been enough research. That said, there are indications that cannabis can indeed cause physical changes in the brain while it’s developing.

Tobacco Plus Cannabis?


If there is one thing that studies have found definitively, it is that moms-to-be should absolutely stay away from tobacco. That includes when mixed with cannabis. Low birth weight and premature birth rates are absolutely associated with tobacco use when pregnant. Mixing that with cannabis does not seem to ameliorate these health risks.

So Is It Ok To Use Cannabis While Pregnant?

The reality is that doctors are, at minimum, reluctant to advise the use of cannabis while pregnant. Even for medical use. There are too many danger signs already. Conclusive studies, however, will continue to be difficult to come by, regardless of cannabis legalization. The reason? It is unethical to conduct proper double blind studies because of the potential risks for the unborn child.

It is also unclear whether the use of CBD or other cannabinoids might significantly alter outcomes. Why? There simply has not been enough research. That may change in the future, especially since non-psychoactive CBD has proven itself to be widely beneficial.

For the present? Err on the side of caution. Don’t use cannabis if you suspect you are pregnant. There are other remedies - even herbal ones - that work, without the associated risks.


Marguerite Arnold

Written by: Marguerite Arnold
With years of writing experience under her belt, Marguerite dedicates her time to exploring the cannabis industry and the developments of the legalisation movement.

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