The Negative Effects of Smoking Marijuana While Pregnant on the health and Development of the Baby
Due to the fact that many states in the U.S. are now legalizing marijuana use for medicinal or recreational purposes, it is important to know the effects of smoking marijuana while pregnant on an unborn baby because it’s use by pregnant women could increase as a result. Studies have shown that 48–60% of marijuana users will continue use during pregnancy, because many women believe that it is fairly safe to use during pregnancy and is much less expensive than tobacco. Many studies have also been done to determine just how many women are using marijuana while pregnant and these have shown that 2% to 5% of women in the U.S smoke marijuana while pregnant in most areas but 15% to 28% in young, urban, socioeconomically disadvantaged women (Women’s Health Care Physicians). Learning about marijuana’s effects on babies is also important, because about half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned (this rate is higher in teens and young adults than other ages). If a mother is unaware that she is pregnant early on in a pregnancy then she may be more likely to smoke marijuana while pregnant. There may be many effects of smoking marijuana while pregnant on infants and toddlers. Research has been done on animals which has shown that the body’s endocannabinoid system plays a huge role in the maturation of the brain, especially in developing emotional responses (Can marijuana use during and after pregnancy harm the baby?).
Studies have also shown that when smoking marijuana while pregnant, THC may cross the placenta and enter into a baby’s bloodstream. Because of this, scientists believe that THC exposure to infants in the womb and very early in life may negatively affect their brain development. Research in rats has suggested that even exposure to low concentrations of THC in pregnancy could have long lasting and strong consequences for brain development and behavior on the baby. Human studies have shown that some women that were using marijuana while pregnant gave birth babies that responded differently to visual stimuli, have a high pitched cry, and tremble more than other babies which could all indicate problems with this baby’s neurological development. Breastfeeding mothers are cautioned to smoke marijuana due to the fact that THC can be excreted into their breast milk in moderate amounts. Researchers are not yet aware on how or if this affects babies however.
Older children may also show effects of their mother’s smoking marijuana while pregnant with them. A few studies have found that after 3 years of age, children born to marijuana-smoking mothers score slightly differently on cognitive and behavioral tests compared with other children. Also, a Canadian study found that at 4 years old, children born to mothers who used marijuana on a daily basis during pregnancy scored significantly lower on memory tests than other children, although there was no impact on these children’s overall intelligence scores.(Can marijuana use during and after pregnancy harm the baby?). A study done on 10 year old children showed that children who had been exposed to marijuana very early in life has increased impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. School aged children that were exposed to marijuana while in the womb are much more likely to show gaps in memory, problem-solving skills, and the ability to pay attention (Can marijuana use during and after pregnancy harm the baby?). More research is needed to discover the effects of smoking marijuana on children of all ages, due to the fact that it is hard to differentiate marijuana’s specific effects on a baby’s development from maternal nutrition, environmental factors, use of other substances, and a child’s exposure to neglect or nurture.
Many studies on the effects of smoking marijuana while pregnant rely on questionnaires that are filled out by mothers which can be a bad way to discover information. If a woman is afraid that her answers on a questionnaire may not be completely anonymous, she could deny smoking marijuana even if she was doing it while pregnant. Also, on these questionnaires, many of the women that were smoking marijuana while pregnant were also smoking cigarettes. This makes people unsure if the effects on children were actually caused by the tobacco and not the marijuana (Women’s Health Care Physicians). In conclusion, there are no studies that show 100% what the effects of smoking marijuana are while pregnant on children prenatally, in early life, and later in life. Mothers are cautioned that smoking marijuana while pregnant and while breastfeeding may have effects on their babies and it is up to them to decide if they want to risk side effects on their children or not.