With recent media attention devoted to the legalization of marijuana and its “safe” effects and purported health benefits, some might assume that marijuana is not harmful during pregnancy. However, studies have shown that exposing an unborn fetus to cannabinoids, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, can seriously affect the baby’s development during pregnancy.
The Risks and Effects
According to the study “The association of marijuana use with outcome of pregnancy“, 18 to 25 year olds show the highest amount of marijuana usage. On investigating the relation between marijuana and fetal development, the study concludes that marijuana use might stunt or slow down fetal growth as well as increase the risk of premature labor and delivery. Both poor fetal growth and shorter pregnancy increase the mother’s chance of delivering an underweight baby. Women who use marijuana regularly are also at an increased risk of bleeding in their third trimester. Premature labor and stunted fetal growth are prevalent in mothers who use marijuana six or more times a week.
Marijuana use may affect the development of the fetus’ nervous system, as well as potentially result in minor malformations such as tumors, undescended testicles and inguinal hernias. There is no direct relation between marijuana use and major malformations at this time.
The mother may not know whether the marijuana contains additional drugs in order to heighten its effect. The baby may be put at an even higher risk, especially if there is alcohol or tobacco use. The study also pointed out that mothers who used marijuana during their pregnancy were 5 times more likely to deliver infants who appeared to have physical characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Much like smoking cessation symptoms, babies who are exposed to marijuana during the pregnancy may exhibit withdrawal symptoms such as trembling, trouble breathing, a decreased response to light and excessive crying after delivery.
Marijuana can also decrease a couple’s chances of conceiving a child, as it reduces fertility in both men and women.
While the number of studies that examine the effect of marijuana on the unborn fetus are vast, there is less research devoted to following these infants into the first years of life. These limited studies conclude that, while some children do not show any apparent signs of learning or behavioral difficulties, others have trouble paying attention, concentrating and solving visual problems. Conversely, there is no evidence that these children exhibit Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children whose mothers used marijuana regularly throughout the pregnancy may have difficulty in retaining information in their short-term memory. The overall IQ of a child exposed to marijuana in the womb does not appear to be affected.
Though marijuana has lots of bad effects it’s still possible to reduce its effects if the mother (going to be) stops using it right from the first few months of pregnancy. Women trying to conceive can have a healthy baby if they stop using marijuana at least few months before pregnancy. It’s always better to consult the doctor periodically during pregnancy to make sure that the baby is developing normally.