With the gradual legalization of marijuana slowly spreading across the world, there’s no denying the fact that the stigma surrounding the drug is reducing but what about breastfeeding mothers?
More and more questions are arising as to the appropriate time and place to smoke marijuana and the questions seem to apply to everyone, including breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women. After all, some experts now say it’s acceptable to have the occasional glass of wine while pregnant and breastfeeding, but does the same go for marijuana?
In short: No. While there isn’t much data to show how many nursing mothers are also smoking weed, there is research to show that pregnant women are smoking weed in growing numbers. One in five women using marijuana during pregnancy are likely to have cannabis-use disorder, and this is clinically defined as a problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.
That may be associated with higher instances of psychiatric issues, too, which can further compromise a mom’s ability to care for baby.
The chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the ingredient in cannabis that activates cannabinoid receptors in your brain to produce mind-altering side effects ranging from euphoria to panic.
Any breastfeeding mum that smokes weed will have the THC go into your bloodstream, which then concentrates in breastmilk due to the fact that THC loves fat, which is plenty in breastmilk.
Just like THC affects your brain, it also triggers the cannabinoid receptors in a foetus’ or infant’s brain, too, setting off many potential effects on their development.
There are some limited studies that looked at foetuses exposed to marijuana in utero and it found that it led to negative effects on infant behaviour.
Other research found that issues with things like executive functioning (the part that controls planning and organization) only first begin to surface during adolescence.
Earlier research has linked smoking marijuana while breastfeeding with delayed motor development at 1 year of age, while other research shows no effects.
However, it is important to remember that many of these studies were done in the 1980s, and today levels of THC are much higher in cannabis. That means that potential problems could be a lot worse if you breastfeed and use weed today.
Not only should you worry about THC in your breastmilk, but it also stays on your breath after a single marijuana cigarette, which you can then breathe on your baby.
So what does it all mean? There isn’t enough evidence that good things happen, but there is evidence that bad things happen. There are significant effects on early infant development as a result of chronic marijuana use.
Due to limited data, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discourages pregnant or breastfeeding women from using marijuana. The committee also says that ob-gyns should not prescribe medical marijuana to these women.