Legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational use has literally changed the way many people view the drug. But America needs to be careful, as legalization does not equal safety. A case in point is using cannabis when pregnant or nursing. Experts generally advise against it.
Such recommendations are not new. Just about every prescription and OTC medication comes with warnings for pregnant moms and their breast-feeding counterparts. It is just generally accepted that medications can be passed on to babies by their mothers. Therefore, caution is always the best policy.
That caution certainly applies to both CBD and THC products. However, there is greater concern with THC. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers are being encouraged by medical professionals to avoid marijuana – both medically and recreationally.
- Using THC During Pregnancy
Avoiding marijuana during pregnancy should be obvious. It should go without saying. Yet doctors still find they have to remind mothers of the potential dangers of exposing their unborn children to THC. Studies have shown that using THC in any form, including smoking, vaping, edibles, topicals, can lead to:
- low birth weight
- preterm labor
- reduced IQ
- childhood hyperactivity.
The fact is that THC can pass through a pregnant mother’s system, then penetrate the placenta and be absorbed by the unborn baby’s body. Consistent exposure to THC during pregnancy can significantly affect a baby later in life.
- Using THC While Breast Feeding
Avoiding marijuana use while breast feeding should also seem obvious. After all, we know enough to avoid alcohol while young children are still nursing. Why would marijuana be any different? It is not. Yet it is fairly common for nursing mothers to assume that THC is no longer a problem once they stop feeling high. They do not realize that THC can stay in the system for weeks.
One study first published in 2018 and revised in 2021 shows that THC can be present in breast milk for anywhere between six days and six weeks following a mother’s last consumption of marijuana. So just because a nursing mother has lost her high does not mean she is not passing THC on to her baby during nursing.
- Other Concerns for Nursing Mothers
Beyond the obvious medical concerns, experts warn nursing mothers of other potential problems. For example, a document published by the Utah Department of Health warns against nursing mothers using cannabis for the following reasons:
1. Pumping and Dumping Is Ineffective
There is a misconception that nursing mothers can pump and dump a certain amount of breastmilk in the hours immediately following marijuana consumption, thereby avoiding exposing their babies to THC. Utah officials say the strategy does not work. Pumping and dumping is ineffective given that THC can remain in a mother’s system for weeks.
2. Interference with Routine Childcare
The Utah document also says that using marijuana while nursing can interfere with a mother’s ability to properly care for her baby. They cite the tendency of marijuana to cause drowsiness. In simple terms, Utah officials believe that being impaired by marijuana is potentially detrimental to routine childcare.
Utah Marijuana is a medical organization that helps state residents obtain their medical cannabis cards. They say the Beehive State has one of the most restrictive medical cannabis programs in the country. Whether one agrees with the restrictions or not, it is hard to argue against the state’s position on pregnant and nursing women using marijuana.
Cannabis in every form has an effect on the human body. The effects of marijuana are potentially serious, which is why medical experts strongly recommend that pregnant and nursing mothers avoid it.