Medical marijuana and pregnant women

Dr. Akeem Adigun

Headaches, glaucoma, nausea, seizures, pain, Crohn’s disease and even cancer-medical marijuana can (at least in part) be beneficial for all of these conditions. Scientists have seen many benefits in marijuana in recent years, and it has caused more than half of states to allow marijuana for medical use; Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law is in effect, making medical marijuana more available in 2018.

Medical marijuana paves the way for many new types of treatments. But like any other medication, it comes with risks. One particular group that is at risk is pregnant mothers and their babies.

“Now that medical marijuana is legal in many states, there’s a growing trend among expectant mothers using it,” said Geisinger obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. Akeem Adigun. “It may help alleviate some symptoms or the discomfort of pregnancy, but mothers should avoid marijuana altogether because it can have dangerous effects on the baby.”

Why are people using marijuana during pregnancy?

Studies show that marijuana use is rising among pregnant women.

One study in California found that as many as seven percent of mothers were using marijuana. Of those surveyed, 19 percent of women ages 18 to 24 admitted to using marijuana while pregnant, and 21 percent of women under 18 said that they used it while pregnant, too.

“Pain, anxiety and nausea are normally the reasons why pregnant women turn to medical marijuana,” said Dr. Adigun. “Some people also use it to help calm the symptoms of morning sickness. But, even though it’s legal for medical use, that does not make it safe for use while pregnant.”

This is your baby. This is your baby on drugs.

“Marijuana is like any other medication,” said Dr. Adigun. “There are negative effects. When a doctor prescribes it, they’re essentially saying the benefits outweigh any risks. But, in the case of pregnant women, the risks to your baby’s health are far greater than any benefit.”

The amount of research into how marijuana affects babies is limited. However, some studies suggest that your baby may feel as much, if not more, of the effects as you do.

The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC, is what causes the “high” feeling as well as delusions and memory problems. THC can enter into the placenta, meaning it can be absorbed by your baby, too. This can negatively affect their brain development, cognition and birth weight. THC can even cause behavioral disorders and learning disabilities after birth.

Marijuana isn’t only a problem while you’re pregnant, either. THC attaches itself to fat cells, which is a key component of breast milk. If you breastfeed your baby after using marijuana, the baby may receive a high concentration of THC in the milk, which can affect their brain development.

The effects of marijuana can be felt throughout your child’s entire life. In a study of 14-year-old students, those whose mothers heavily used marijuana in the first trimester scored significantly lower on reading, spelling and math tests.

“Regardless of its legality, marijuana can have similar effects to alcohol on babies, and should be treated with the same caution,” said Dr. Adigun. “Do not use marijuana under any circumstances while pregnant, unless specifically directed by your doctor.”

Women from the community are invited to meet Geisinger’s obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Akeem Adigun to discuss their individual health needs. One of Geisinger’s commitments is to expand the services to meet the demands of the community. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Adigun please call (570) 748-7714.