Since the legalization of cannabis in many US states, consumption of the drug has skyrocketed across almost all demographics. In fact, a recent study reported that around 9% of American women now smoke marijuana regularly, where another survey conducted in California found 7% of pregnant women were cannabis users. This begs the question, should women be smoking cannabis while pregnant?
In addition to this, if you have recently become a mother and have managed to make it through pregnancy without consuming marijuana, you may be wondering whether it is now safe to consume during the breastfeeding stage.
Unfortunately, the research on this topic is relatively thin, and thus, the studies do not provide a concrete conclusion to the question. However, in this article, we have gathered the information available to answer whether it is safe to smoke weed while breastfeeding, what effects it may have on the child, and whether it is safe to use products containing CBD. Let’s get into it.
Is it safe to smoke weed while breastfeeding?
Although the studies on this subject are not extensive enough to make a proper judgment, it is advised by many doctors to avoid cannabis while breastfeeding. Why so? Well, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound in weed that makes you high, is stored in fat cells in the body. As breast milk is made from the mother’s body fat, it is believed that the THC is transferred into the milk, which is then consumed by the infant.
Studies have shown that THC remains present in breast milk even after long periods of time. One study that looked at the breastmilk of 8 women who were abstaining from cannabis for a six week period found that the breast milk still contained THC throughout the whole six weeks of abstinence.
Therefore unlike alcohol, which is excreted from the body within a few days, a mother’s milk may be affected detrimentally by cannabis use for a considerable period of time after the initial consumption.
Effects of marijuana on the infant
As cannabis is a mind-altering drug (thanks to the THC compound), it is believed to have an adverse effect on a child’s brain development. Some studies have shown that exposure to cannabis during the developmental stages of life can significantly change the brain. Reports have shown notable problems with motor skills, strength, intellectual development, as well as specific learning and memory tasks later in life, although these conclusions have been drawn based on results found during animal testing.
Another research study has suggested that early exposure of THC to the brain can affect cerebellar development. Since abnormal cerebellar development is associated with an increased chance of schizophrenia later in life, this could be a risk factor.
Consumption may also make the baby fatigue more easily, meaning it is likely to sleep more and consume less milk. This will result in a slower weight gain and slower development of the child. In babies that are premature or underweight, this is dangerous because the child needs as many nutrients as possible so that it can grow to a healthy weight as soon as possible.
There is also the chance that cannabis contains other harmful chemicals, especially in the case of street drugs. Even cannabis from a marijuana dispensary can potentially contain pesticides that may be harmful to a baby. It is, therefore, safer to avoid these products altogether.
In addition to this, it’s important to consider secondary factors that can impact the child, such as the detrimental effects of second-hand smoking and impaired judgment of the caregiver.
Second-hand smoking is especially dangerous if the cannabis is smoked openly with tobacco, which contains substances that are known to be harmful and can cause illnesses such as cancer and other respiratory issues. Secondly, the cannabis user themselves will have impaired judgment once they become intoxicated, which can affect their ability to care for the child appropriately.
CBD oil and breastfeeding?
CBD oil, or cannabidiol to give it its proper name, is derived from cannabis and is a separate component to THC. Therefore, it does not make you high, although some CBD products have been found to contain traces of THC.
CBD oil is used for its medicinal purposes and is known to help control seizures, relieve anxiety, stress, and depression, and help with skin ailments such as acne.CBD oil products generally come in dab containers and are quite popular as they are designed for skin and medical application.
Again, the research on this is rather thin; however, many doctors believe CBD is unsafe for a developing child to consume because of the unknown effects it may have on their development.
While the jury is still out on this one, it’s safe to say that the general consensus suggests avoiding all cannabis consumption while breastfeeding your child. Many doctors and medical associations, including the American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agree that it is safer to stay away from marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The long-term effects of marijuana on your child are still uncertain, so when it comes to your child’s welfare, it is better to play it safe and avoid these products altogether.