Having a baby can be one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. There are so many possibilities, and also so many questions. Whether a woman is currently pregnant or a new mother, there is so much to learn and many health decisions to make for not only herself, but also for her baby.
In Colorado, there are plenty of questions women have about marijuana use during pregnancy, especially now that retail marijuana is legal if you’re over 21. Can marijuana harm my baby? Marijuana is natural so doesn’t that mean it is safe? Isn’t marijuana supposed to help with nausea during pregnancy?
That’s why we’ve partnered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to help answer some of these questions. Here are some highlights from our recent Q&A with CDPHE.
What do we know about marijuana use and pregnancy?
CDPHE: Research has shown that there is no known safe amount of marijuana use while pregnant. Colorado’s Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee reviewed the scientific literature available on the health effects of marijuana use and published the report, “Monitoring the Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado: 2014,” which you can view the full results of here.
Since marijuana is legal now, what’s wrong with using marijuana while pregnant?
CDPHE: The fact that retail marijuana is legal does not make it safe. Marijuana contains THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that makes the person consuming it feel “high.” Whether marijuana is smoked, vaped or eaten, THC is passed to the baby when a woman uses marijuana during pregnancy. Exposure to THC in the womb may affect a baby’s brain development, making it hard for him/her to pay attention and learn as he/she grows older.
Some cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, occur naturally in the body and in breast milk. These endocannabinoids help your nerve cells communicate better. However, THC from marijuana is much stronger than your natural endocannabinoids. THC can upset the natural endocannabinoid system in your body. This is one more reason why pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should not use retail marijuana to avoid any risks of THC.
But, marijuana is natural, so doesn’t that mean it’s safe?
CDPHE: Not all natural substances or plants are safe. Lead, tobacco and poisonous berries are examples. Marijuana contains THC, which may harm a baby.
Isn’t marijuana less dangerous than alcohol? Tobacco? Secondhand smoke?
CDPHE: We know from research that whether marijuana is smoked, vaped or eaten, THC is passed to the baby when a woman uses marijuana during pregnancy. And, exposure to THC in the womb may affect a baby’s brain development.
We also know that breathing marijuana smoke is bad for both mother and baby. Marijuana smoke has many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke, and some of these chemicals can cause cancer.
So, it’s not really about whether marijuana is more or less dangerous than other drugs like alcohol or tobacco. It’s about making sure expecting mothers understand the risks that come with retail marijuana use so they can make the healthiest choices for themselves and their babies.
What about women using marijuana to help with nausea?
CDPHE: The THC found in marijuana may harm the baby during pregnancy, since THC passes through to the baby. We encourage a woman experiencing nausea during pregnancy to talk with her health care provider about safer options that do not risk harming the baby.
What about when marijuana seems like a better alternative than other medicines?
CDPHE: A health care provider can recommend medical marijuana for pregnant women in special cases. A health care provider has the expertise to decide whether the benefits are greater than the risks. It is unsafe to use any medicines while pregnant that are not recommended by a health care provider. A pregnant woman should talk to her health care provider about safer choices that do not risk harming the baby.
What if a woman used before she knew she was pregnant?
CDPHE: If a woman has used or currently is using retail marijuana during her pregnancy, she should speak with her health care provider. If she wants to stop using marijuana while pregnant, her health care provider can connect her with treatments that are confidential and nonjudgmental. You can learn more at Mother’s Connection or by calling 1-800-CHILDREN.
The goal of this campaign is to help Colorado women learn the facts about retail marijuana so they can make informed and educated decisions for themselves and for their babies.
Changing societal attitudes and marijuana’s legalization doesn’t change the fact that the developing embryo (and fetus) is dependent on the mother for oxygen, nutrients and a balance of hormones, chemicals and other substances to grow normally. What a mom-to-be eats and smokes affects her baby. That’s why it’s important for Colorado women to learn more about the risks associated with marijuana and pregnancy.
You can learn more at www.GoodToKnowColorado.com/baby. And, be sure to talk to your health care provider about questions or concerns you may have because we all have one goal: to have a healthy baby.
In partnership with Mile High Mamas