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Is Marijuana Safe When Pregnant or Breastfeeding? What the Experts Say

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I recently attended a conference where the presenter referenced a vintage Blatz Beer advertisement extolling the benefits of drinking beer…for mom and baby. 

This, of course, seems far-fetched in today’s world. Research has proven the harmful effects of moms drinking alcohol while pregnant and nursing. I have a dear friend whose adoptive teenage daughter will likely suffer from the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) for the rest of her life.

Fifty years ago, many people assumed that using alcohol or tobacco while pregnant or breastfeeding was more or less safe because these drugs were legal. Today, many people believe the same about marijuana.

According to a recent blog by Children’s Hospital Colorado, Maya Bunik, MD, MPH, PSPH, medical director of the Primary Care and Breastfeeding Management Clinic, is seeing this trend. “It’s definitely been an issue over the last five years, especially since legalization in Colorado,” says Bunik. “There’s a public perception that legalization means safety.” 

Is Marijuana Safe When Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

So, where do women stand with using marijuana while pregnant or breastfeeding?  There hasn’t been a significant amount of research conducted to date. And, the body of existing scientific research doesn’t always produce clear results. That’s why the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee recently published its latest “Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado: 2016” report. The report reviews all of the scientific literature currently available on the health effects of retail marijuana use, including during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Based on this report, here’s what we do know:

  • There is no known safe amount of marijuana use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Marijuana contains THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that makes the person consuming it feel “high.”
  • Whether marijuana is smoked or eaten, THC is passed to the baby when a woman uses marijuana during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
  • Exposure to THC in the womb may affect a baby’s brain development, making it hard for them to pay attention and learn as they grow older.
  • When a breastfeeding woman smokes or eats marijuana, THC gets into her breast milk and passes through to her baby.
  • THC from marijuana use stays in breast milk much longer than alcohol does, so “pumping and dumping” doesn’t work with marijuana.
  • Because THC is stored in body fat, it stays in the mother’s body for a long time. A baby’s brain and body are made with a lot of fat. Since a baby’s brain and body may store THC for a long time, women shouldn’t use marijuana while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Not all natural substances or plants are safe. Tobacco and poisonous berries are great examples.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also says that mothers who are breastfeeding should not use marijuana. 

Current Research

In order to help address what we don’t know about marijuana use and pregnancy or breastfeeding, new studies currently are underway across the US. For example, Children’s ColoradoUniversity of Colorado Hospital, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine are investigating how much THC from marijuana makes its way into breast milk and how long it stays there. Commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control, the study’s goal is to accurately map how THC presents in breast milk, in what concentrations, and for how long. It’s just one piece of research that will help women make informed decisions about what’s best for them and their babies. 

Learn More

With new research underway, it’s more important than ever that pregnant and breastfeeding women stay informed. The Good to Know site features the latest information at www.GoodToKnowColorado.com/baby. Pregnant and breastfeeding women also should talk with their healthcare providers to learn the facts about retail marijuana to make informed and educated decisions for themselves and their babies.

At Mile High Mamas, there’s one thing we an all agree on: we want babies to be happy and healthy. That’s why we encourage you to visit www.GoodToKnowColorado.com/baby to learn more about retail marijuana, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

In partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

 

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