I have two children - a one-year-old and a two-year-old - and during my wife's second pregnancy, a friend from back home came to visit before his spouse gave birth to their first child. Throughout the evening, we drank and talked about everything from regional cuisine, bands we were digging at the time, and our significant other's pregnancies.
When I asked him how he his wife was dealing with the morning sickness and fits of occasional nausea throughout the nine-month term, he candidly explained that she had continued to smoke a joint when needed. I had heard of this practice in the past but had never really discussed it with someone who was actively continuing to smoke pot while carrying their child. I wasn't judging, but simply inquisitive about the benefits or potential impacts on the expecting mother.
He told me that their doctor had given his spouse an assortment of medicines to fight off the morning sickness early on in the pregnancy, but the side effects were almost worse than the original condition itself, so she conducted some research and decided to start smoking pot again. Not too much, but just enough to get back her appetite and eat again.
A few weeks later, they gave birth to a healthy baby boy, with no early signs of developmental or behavioral issues.
My friend's child was born healthy, but researchers are beginning to take a deeper dive into the adverse effects of marijuana on babies both while they're still in the womb and when they are born and begin breastfeeding from mothers who start smoking pot again.
In a recently released clinical report on the effects of marijuana on expecting and breastfeeding mothers, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that women should not smoke pot while pregnant and continue to abstain until their children stop nursing.
The Los Angeles Times recently sat down with one of the lead researchers who came up with the recommendations to learn more about the impact of the drug on mothers and their children. Seth Ammerman, MD, a professor of pediatrics in Stanford University's Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine said:
"Women should definitely be counseled that it's not a good idea to use marijuana while pregnant," said Ammerman. "If you're breastfeeding, we would encourage you to cut back or quit."
Despite this recommendation, Ammerman told the publication that "the benefits of breastfeeding would outweigh the potential exposure to the infant."
In the report, which can be read in full here, Ammerman and his colleagues state: "emerging data on the ability of cannabinoids to cross the placenta and affect the development of the fetus raise concerns about both pregnancy outcomes and long-term consequences for the infant or child."
They continue by explaining, "with this clinical report, we provide data on the current rates of marijuana use among pregnant and lactating women, discuss what is known about the effects of marijuana on fetal development and later neurodevelopmental and behavioral outcomes, and address implications for education and policy."
The report goes on to state that "although the use of marijuana is being touted on social media as an effective and safe treatment of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, there are currently no indications for its use during pregnancy."
Ammerman furthered this comment in his Los Angeles Times interview, stating, "There's a myth out there that it's benign. And for many adults who are sporadic users, that's probably true." Ammerman said. "But when it's used by women who are pregnant or nursing, it may be harmful."
The report comes off the heels of more and more states who are allowing sales and consumption of marijuana (both medically and recreationally) in recent years and months. With access to the drug more readily available now more than ever before, doctors and researchers like Ammerman and his colleagues are concerned that more and more children will become exposed in the coming years.
While Ammerman and his colleagues stress that women should avoid consuming marijuana during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, they are quick to admit that there isn't enough evidence to decide one way or the other if there are benefits or detriments for women getting high while they continue to nurse their infants.
"Present data are insufficient to assess the effects of exposure of infants to maternal marijuana use during breastfeeding," the report reads. "As a result, maternal marijuana use while breastfeeding is discouraged. Because the potential risks of infant exposure to marijuana metabolites are unknown, women should be informed of the potential risk of exposure during lactation and encouraged to abstain from using any marijuana products while breastfeeding."
They conclude the report by stating, "pediatricians are urged to work with their state and/or local health departments if legalization of marijuana is being considered or has occurred in their state to help with constructive, nonpunitive policy and education for families."
But what about my friend whose wife continued to take part in an occasional joint from time to time during her pregnancy? As far as we know, their son is in perfect health with no known signs of development or behavioral issues. Should they be worried, or should they wait and see what happens down the road?
The same goes for other mothers who continue to smoke pot while pregnant and nursing. What do you think about this study and the recommendations found within? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think.
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