February 2020

Cannabis and Pregnancy: What You Should Know

New observational data provides further evidence that cannabis isn't safe to use during pregnancy. This contrasts with the popular notion that cannabis is natural and therefore safe and might help a variety of conditions. It’s crucial that women, and providers, are educated about its risks.

When Colorado and some other states legalized cannabis, they also implemented mandatory maternal urine toxicology testing. The results from this testing dramatically improves the ability of researchers to accurately track cannabis-related fetal complications. Alarmingly, the data shows us that more young pregnant women use cannabis than we thought – 17.5% in Colorado. This is much higher than the 1.4% of women in Ontario, Canada who self-reported cannabis use during pregnancy. Research analyzing these cases shows that cannabis use increases the risk for many complications, including premature birth, hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, stillbirth, and low birth weight. This new data will also help track long-term consequences in children, like learning disabilities.

It’s also critical that breastfeeding women understand the risks. Unlike alcohol, cannabis is stored in fat and remains in the body for a long time. The “pumping and dumping” method commonly used to rid breast milk of alcohol won’t work for cannabis. THC from cannabis can stay in breastmilk for up to six days after use and has been linked with long-term developmental consequences in breastfed infants.

Make sure pregnant and breastfeeding women understand that using cannabis can also lead to legal consequences. In Colorado and other states where cannabis is legal, some hospitals test babies for drugs after birth. Hospitals are required to report positive tests to child protective services.

Catching cannabis use early is crucial. Help women find a safe alternative therapy if they are using cannabis for specific symptoms like nausea in morning sickness. And tell women with dependence or addiction that help is available – non-judgmental and confidential treatment groups are established in many states.

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The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.