Next to alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the U.S. A recent Gallup poll found that the number of American adults who smoke weed has nearly doubled in just three years, with one in eight people over the age of 18 reporting current use. As marijuana becomes legalized in more and more states and attitudes toward the drug relax, many women are left wondering, “can pregnant women smoke weed?”
While more research is needed on how using marijuana during pregnancy affects the development and health of a baby, preliminary studies have resulted in mixed messages.
What the Current Research Says
Although research about marijuana use during pregnancy is limited and the results are mixed, a number of studies have found a variety of potential problems resulting from using weed while you’re pregnant, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
- Studies on animals indicate an increased risk for miscarriage when marijuana is used in early pregnancy.
- Some human studies show that marijuana use during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of hyperactivity and developmental disorders in children.
- While some studies have found a link between marijuana use and premature birth or low birth weight, other studies have found no correlation. But there is evidence that long-term marijuana use may elevate these risks.
- Research funded by the National Institutes of Health found that marijuana is associated with a doubled—or even tripled—risk of stillbirth.
- Animal studies have shown that moderate amounts of THC—the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana—during pregnancy may increase a child’s stress responsivity and result in problems with social interactions.
- Animal studies have also shown evidence of problems with learning among children exposed to THC in the womb.
Other studies have found correlations between smoking weed during pregnancy and neurological development, and children who are exposed to THC in the womb are more likely to have trouble with problem-solving skills, attention, and memory during their early school years.
NIDA admits that more research is needed in order to separate the effects specific to marijuana from those that are environmental, such as other drugs being used and the level of stress in the home environment. And indeed, a 2016 review and meta-analysis of 31 studies found no independent association between prenatal marijuana use and adverse birth problems when researchers adjusted for other factors, such as tobacco use.
So…Can Pregnant Women Smoke Weed?
Despite the mixed results of the current research, experts across the board recommend abstaining from using weed while you’re pregnant. Even if marijuana use doesn’t increase the risk of birth issues, it very well may cause cognitive, social, and attention problems once your child enters school, and that’s a risk you shouldn’t take.
Need Help Quitting Marijuana?
Between nine and 17 percent of people who smoke marijuana become addicted to it. Addiction is characterized by the inability to stop using a psychoactive substance even though you want to or have tried to quit. NIDA points out that for the majority of people with addiction, willpower and good intentions alone are rarely enough to help them end the addiction. Professional help is usually needed in order to address harmful thought and behavior patterns common with addiction and the issues that underlie the marijuana abuse to begin with, which may include chronic stress, a history of trauma, or mental illness.
If you can’t seem to quit using marijuana even though you know it could cause problems with your pregnancy or your child’s development, talk to your doctor about treatment programs, or visit a therapist who specializes in addiction.