What Pregnant Women Need to Know about Marijuana

Pregnant woman

If you use any drug while pregnant, your child is using that same drug. Alcohol, opiates, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana – every drug has its own profile of harm to developing babies. There are too many people – including pregnant women – who think that marijuana is harmless both to themselves and their growing babies.

There are some women who never use marijuana until they are pregnant. Their doctors may have even recommended it to help with morning sickness. Pregnant women should know the effects of marijuana on their unborn child so they can make educated choices on its use. It’s up to women to get educated on this point as their doctors may not even know the truth themselves.

Three studies provide insight into the harms possible from pot use during pregnancy.

Netherlands Study on Pregnant Women and Marijuana

In the Netherlands, researchers found that babies born to mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy showed an altered brain structure. Many of the women in this study had used tobacco and marijuana together, some had used only tobacco and some used neither substance. The results of this study showed that the part of the brain involved in social behavior and decision-making was thicker than normal when both drugs were used and thinner when only tobacco was used. The researchers did not have the data available to judge how this change in brain tissue could affect the child’s progress or behavior.

In a University of Utah study, researchers found that marijuana use during pregnancy resulted in a threefold risk of fetal death. This was true even when mothers used no other substances at all, even tobacco.

And a study from the University of Adelaide in Australia found that marijuana use was associated with a greater risk of preterm births. A baby is considered preterm is he or she is delivered before 37 weeks. The mothers who participated in this study who used marijuana at 20 weeks gestation delivered, on average, at just 30 weeks. Marijuana users also had a higher percentage of very early preterm birth, with more than a third delivering at 28 weeks.

THC and Body Fats

THC is the main intoxicating ingredient in marijuana. Because of its chemical construction, it is attracted to fats – this is called being “lipophilic.” In the body, THC tends to gravitate to and be stored in fatty tissues. Unfortunately, the brain and the sexual organs are the fattiest tissues in the body (other than stored fat).

The same attraction to fatty tissues would occur in a developing baby. THC would be attracted to the rapidly-growing brain and could also be stored there. This could explain the changes in brain structure found in babies born to pregnant marijuana users.

Pregnant women suffering from morning sickness or other conditions they think could be alleviated by marijuana, would be very wise to seek other alternatives for their relief. By doing so, they have a greater chance of carrying their baby to full term and may eliminate a source of harm to their baby.

It would be so much better if pregnant women would routinely get help to become sober as soon as they find out they are pregnant. Even better would be women of child-bearing years not using drugs or becoming addicted. 

If you know someone who needs help to handle their addiction, they deserve help. Contact Narconon Ojai to learn how we can help. 1-877-936-7435


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.