Marijuana during pregnancy: Is it safe?
Smoking weed while pregnant and using marijuana in other forms poses health risks for you and your baby. Marijuana – also called weed, pot, or cannabis – isn’t less dangerous than other drugs in pregnancy, even though it’s now legal in many states.
Healthcare organizations that advise women not to use marijuana when pregnant include the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Experts recommend quitting marijuana altogether when you’re pregnant because there’s no known safe dosage. After your baby’s born, it’s not safe to use marijuana while you’re breastfeeding either.
What happens if I smoke weed while pregnant?
The main psychoactive ingredient in pot – the ingredient that makes people “high” – is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
If you use marijuana when you’re pregnant, THC crosses the placenta into your baby’s bloodstream. An estimated 10 to 30 percent of the THC in your system could reach your baby. And babies are much more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals and toxins than adults.
THC passes from you to your baby if you’re using marijuana in any way, including:
- Smoking a joint
- Dabbing: using concentrated cannabis oil
- Vaping: inhaling cannabis vapor using a vaporizing pen or similar device
- Consumingmarijuana edibles or drinking cannabis-infused beverages. Edibles such as cookies, brownies, or candy aren’t safer than smoking, dabbing, or vaping weed – the THC still crosses the placenta.
Even applying creams or lotions containing marijuana to your skin can potentially be a problem. Also, weed may be contaminated with other drugs or herbicides that could harm your baby – even if you buy marijuana legally.
Note: Vaping weed or using e-cigarettes is especially dangerous because vaping has been linked to serious lung problems and deaths. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC warn that pregnant women shouldn’t use any vaping products, including THC-containing products and e-cigarettes.
Effects of smoking weed while pregnant
Some people mistakenly believe that marijuana is harmless because it’s derived from a plant. This isn’t true. Marijuana use during pregnancy can affect you and your baby in many negative ways. Here’s how:
- Smoking weed (or tobacco) while pregnant raises carbon monoxide levels in your blood. This can reduce the amount of oxygen that your developing baby receives, which can adversely affect your baby’s growth.
In a study of more than 5,600 women who used marijuana during their pregnancies, researchers found that compared to pregnant women who didn’t use pot, pregnant women who used weed had:
- More than double the rate of preterm birth
- Increased rates of placental abruption
In the same study, the babies of the pregnant women who used marijuana were more likely to:
- Be small for gestational age
- Be transferred to neonatal intensive care (NICU)
- Have five-minute Apgar scores lower than 4 out of 10
Research elsewhere has linked marijuana use in pregnancy to these effects on babies:
- Increased irritability in newborns
- Possible link to stillbirth: Researchers aren’t sure yet if marijuana alone is responsible for the link or if other substances, such as cigarettes, are involved in the increased risk.
- Problems with higher-order thinking during childhood, including problem-solving, memory, planning, attention, and impulse control
- Lower academic scores once the child reaches school age
Not all studies have identified ill effects from marijuana during pregnancy. But given the concerns that research has raised so far, the AAP and ACOG advise pregnant and nursing women to avoid marijuana use. Once your baby arrives, exposure to secondhand smoke from marijuana is also harmful.
It’s smart to stop smoking weed if you’re trying to get pregnant. You may become pregnant and not realize it right away. Even in the early weeks of the first trimester, marijuana could impact your baby’s health. Also, THC gets stored in your fat and is released for a while after you stop using marijuana (estimates range from two days to several months), so it’s a good idea to give up weed well before you conceive.
What effects can marijuana have on my health when I’m pregnant?
Using weed during pregnancy can have negative effects on your health, including:
- Risk of falling: Marijuana can make you dizzy. Falling can be especially dangerous when you’re pregnant.
- Impaired judgment: You’re more likely to injure yourself if you’re under the influence.
- Risk of breathing problems: This is because marijuana lowers oxygen levels in your body.
- Lung damage: Marijuana smoke, much like cigarette smoke, irritates the lungs and may cause an increased risk of lung infection.
Are there benefits to using marijuana while pregnant?
There’s no evidence that using marijuana during pregnancy has any benefits, and experts agree that the risks of using pot during pregnancy far outweigh any potential upsides.
Some women say that weed helps relieve pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, but there’s no research to confirm this. Because of the dangers associated with marijuana use, experts recommend trying safer remedies for morning sickness. If nondrug options don’t work, talk to your healthcare provider about anti-nausea medications you can take while pregnant.
Anecdotally, some pregnant women report using weed to relieve other pregnancy symptoms such as achiness and loss of appetite. Again, the risks outweigh any potential benefits, and there are no studies that support this.
Medical marijuana generally contains higher CBD content and lower THC content. The use of CBD in pregnancy hasn’t been studied well, so it’s unknown if medical marijuana poses less risk to a baby than recreational marijuana. If you use medical marijuana, talk with your healthcare provider about other treatments that are safer to use during pregnancy.
Should I tell my doctor I’m using marijuana while pregnant?
It depends. It’s a good idea to seek help from a trusted provider as early as possible to protect your health and the health of your baby. ACOG encourages doctors to be understanding and offer help to pregnant women who use marijuana or other drugs. In most cases, healthcare providers will offer advice and resources to help you quit and find alternative treatments for any ailments you’re using marijuana for.
But providers in some states may be required to report you to child welfare authorities if they suspect you of prenatal drug use. So you’ll want to be familiar with your state’s policies on substance abuse during pregnancy. If you live in a state with mandatory reporting, you might want to seek help from someone who isn’t a healthcare provider.
If you reach out to your provider and feel judged or unsupported about marijuana use during pregnancy, find someone more helpful and sympathetic.
For confidential and anonymous help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers:
Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and in at least 23 states and the District of Columbia, using drugs during pregnancy is considered child abuse. Women risk losing custody of their children, and several states require women who use drugs during pregnancy to undergo mandatory drug treatment. Three states threaten criminal charges.
Even in states where marijuana is legal for medical and/or adult use, using pot while pregnant can get you in trouble. In Colorado, for example, where marijuana is sold legally, hospitals may notify child protective services if your baby tests positive for THC at birth.
Are more women using marijuana while pregnant?
Yes. Marijuana use in pregnancy has become increasingly common, putting more babies at risk of exposure. Nationally, self-reported marijuana use among pregnant women nearly doubled between 2002 and 2017, from 3.4 percent to 7 percent overall – and from nearly 6 percent to 12 percent in the first trimester. Researchers estimate that today about 1 in 20 women uses weed during pregnancy, and usage is even higher among young women 18 to 25 years old.
Legalization of marijuana in many states may be contributing to the uptick. Stories on social media about women using marijuana during pregnancy to relieve pregnancy symptoms may also be influencing the increase. Although there’s no evidence that marijuana is safe or effective at treating pregnancy-related issues, women have reported using weed for morning sickness, anxiety, and stress. Unfortunately, these anecdotes can give the mistaken impression that pot use during pregnancy is safe.
Cannabis dispensaries may be adding to pregnant women’s confusion about weed, recommending it for use in pregnancy and directly contradicting the warnings of medical experts. In one study, researchers posing as pregnant women called 400 randomly selected cannabis dispensaries, and more than two-thirds of dispensaries recommended using marijuana for morning sickness.
Dispensary employees are not trained medical professionals. Salespeople may have recommended marijuana simply because they’re not properly informed about the risks. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before using any kind of drug or supplement during your pregnancy.
Why don’t we know more about using marijuana during pregnancy?
It’s difficult to study the specific effects of using marijuana during pregnancy for several reasons, including:
- Women in studies may also be using tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs, so it’s hard to isolate the effects of weed.
- Pregnant women may not want to admit they’re using marijuana or how much they’re using.
- Ethical concerns and the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug prevent researchers from conducting clinical trials involving weed and pregnant women.
BabyCenter’s editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you’re seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.
Marijuana Research Report
What is marijuana?
Marijuana—also called weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, and a vast number of other slang terms—is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa. Some people smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints; in pipes, water pipes (sometimes called bongs), or in blunts (marijuana rolled in cigar wraps). 1 Marijuana can also be used to brew tea and, particularly when it is sold or consumed for medicinal purposes, is frequently mixed into foods (edibles) such as brownies, cookies, or candies. Vaporizers are also increasingly used to consume marijuana. Stronger forms of marijuana include sinsemilla (from specially tended female plants) and concentrated resins containing high doses of marijuana’s active ingredients, including honeylike hash oil, waxy budder, and hard amberlike shatter. These resins are increasingly popular among those who use them both recreationally and medically.
The main psychoactive(mind-altering) chemical in marijuana, responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that people seek, is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The chemical is found in resin produced by the leaves and buds primarily of the female cannabis plant. The plant also contains more than 500 other chemicals, including more than 100 compounds that are chemically related to THC, called cannabinoids. 2