Marijuana Use During Pregnancy

Marijuana (also known as pot or weed) is formally known as cannabis sativa. It is used in a variety of ways to obtain a pleasant feeling or even encourage food intake. The active part of the drug, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), passes easily into the body’s bloodstream. It makes its way into the brain to cause the high and other sometimes not so desired effects. In a pregnant user, besides affecting her, it also affects the unborn child. If you have questions regarding marijuana use, please contact us for a FREE appointment. Our women’s clinic can educate you on health factors related to marijuana use in pregnancy.

As more is desired, the woman may be led to more potent drugs with even more dangerous effects. Addiction leads to poor performance and the risk of auto accidents increases. The high becomes very costly to the woman in every way possible, including her normal responsibilities. More physically dangerous actions occur, and effects become uncontrollable. The little person in the womb needs only nourishment from his/her mother, but he/she does not need the likely negative effects from a questionable drug.

Hospital studies have been done of marijuana users who were intoxicated and/or mentally impaired. Emergency room (ER) admissions show its most negative effects as some of these ER patients had dangerously combined marijuana with other drugs. Synthetic cannabinoids (synthetic marijuana) use has become another reason for ER visits. Dangerous results made by poor judgment were likely increased or caused by the marijuana’s effects. Younger age concerns exist in this picture. “Marijuana was the most commonly reported primary substance of abuse among admissions that initiated substance use at the age of 14 or younger” (SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data 2011).

What about brain formation concerns in the baby? Although findings are not all in, here is an example of what is known. A Swedish researcher’s finding was that circuit pathways in the brain can be permanently damaged from drugs. He explained that this damage occurs to a part (an axon) of a nerve cell. The process that sends impulses to another nerve cell does not happen in some pathways. Even if these pathways are not used for a long period of time, these axons can cause the brain’s nerves in those pathways to not properly communicate. Studies have shown increased incidence of mental illnesses and addiction tendencies in children that were exposed to cannabis while in the womb. For this reason, the respected medical researcher made the statement that “cannabis should be avoided during pregnancy” (Healthline News, 01/28/2014).

The British Medical Journal Open published an article earlier this year regarding effects of marijuana on fetal outcome, and from the 24 studies in this review, researchers concluded that exposure to marijuana in utero may affect the baby after delivery, although not structural birth defects, but effects such as low birth weight or need for NICU (BMJ Open, 04/05/2016).

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reported in July 2015 that 48-60% of female marijuana users continue their use of marijuana during pregnancy, because they may believe that marijuana use is not putting them or their baby in any danger. However, according to ACOG, studies suggest that marijuana exposure in utero may affect the child’s attention span and school performance, as well as possibly contributing to behavioral problems down the road. ACOG recommends that all pregnant women discontinue marijuana use.

Get OB care for your pregnancy, and follow your doctor’s guidance for going off drugs safely. Refusing marijuana and other drugs of abuse presented to you before and while pregnant is a major way to provide health for you, your pregnancy, and your child.

Source of information and quotes:

Barclay, Rachel; Healthline News (, quote by professor Tibor Harkany  at Karolinka Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (

SAMHSA (; this agency can offer help to deal with substance abuse and addiction.

Gunn, J.K.L., Rosales, C.B., Center, K.B., Nunez, A., Gibson, S.J., Christ, C., Ehirir, J.E. British Medical Journal Open. Prenatal exposure to cannabis and maternal and child health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis., 04/05/2016.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Committee Opinion: Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Lactation. Number 637, July 2015.

Resources for parents to find specialized care for their children:

Child Development Services is a link between several different agencies in the City of Greenville, SC and Greenville County (

SC First Steps (

Nurse-Family Partnership (

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA,