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Pregnancy and Pot: What You Should Know
Marijuana use during pregnancy is on the rise. Recent research analyzed medical questionnaires of 279,457 pregnant women and found pot use increased from 4.2% to 7.1% over an eight-year period. That’s just the people who admitted it. Researchers believe many women don’t own up to marijuana use during pregnancy for fear of being reported to social services, or even arrested in a handful of states.
While the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use in several states has helped normalize and decriminalize it, healthcare and addiction professionals are still very concerned about marijuana use, especially during pregnancy. Here’s why.
The Risks of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy
Though legal in many states, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This means it has a high potential for abuse and no scientifically backed medical use. It’s possible to get physically and psychologically addicted to marijuana, so much so that it can require specialized substance abuse treatment to stop abusing it.
If you’re smoking pot while pregnant, you’re not only putting yourself at risk for addiction and a number of physical and mental health issues, you could be putting your unborn baby in danger. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in pot, crosses the placenta during pregnancy. Some of the complications of this may include:
Several studies have shown a positive correlation between marijuana use during pregnancy and giving birth early. A recent study by the University of Adelaide found mothers who smoked pot were five times more likely to have preterm babies than women who did not smoke pot.
Using cannabis while pregnant has been linked to a double or triple increase in the risk of the death of a baby more than 20 weeks into a pregnancy, especially when combined with cigarette smoking. Even when nicotine use was controlled for, there was still a greater risk of stillbirth with marijuana use during pregnancy.
Low Birth Weight
A 2012 study published in Pediatric Research found babies of pot-smoking moms were around 375 grams lighter than their drug-free counterparts. Issues such as low birth weight can potentially land babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Poor Cognitive Function
A review of studies on the long-term effects of prenatal exposure to marijuana found that marijuana use during pregnancy may interfere with brain development of the fetus, leading to cognitive deficits in childhood.
Mental Health Issues
Some research findings show that prenatal exposure to marijuana can put unborn babies at a higher risk for mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and ADHD in childhood and adolescence.
Even more cause for concern is that the body of research on marijuana use during pregnancy is relatively new and small by scientific standards. This is one of several reasons why organizations like The American College of Obstetrics and Pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatricians warn women to quit smoking marijuana during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The full extent of weed’s detrimental effects on babies is just not yet known.
Rehab for Pregnant Women
If you’re pregnant and abuse marijuana or other drugs, there are addiction treatment options. Drug rehab for pregnant women often begins with medical detox guided by staff specially trained in safely detoxing expectant mothers. Depending on the drug abused and severity of the addiction, medical staff may implement a tapering schedule or use detox medications known to be safe for both you and your baby.
The next step is specialized addiction treatment that helps you get to the underlying reasons why substance abuse has such a hold on you. With determination and the right treatment, you can give yourself and your baby the best chance at a healthy, rewarding life.