Starting a family is an exciting and special time. It is also a time that brings up a lot of questions. Mothers-to-be often have questions related to their own health and the health of their unborn baby during this time.
Now that recreational use of marijuana is legal in Washington state for those 21 years old and older, more questions are coming up regarding the use of marijuana during pregnancy. Assessing the risk for marijuana use during pregnancy is complicated. The research so far has been limited.
In science and health, when we face these kinds of dilemmas we can turn to the precautionary principle as a guide. The principle states that if an activity or behavior raises threats to health, then precautionary measures should be taken seriously even if some cause and effect relationships are not yet fully understood. In other words, when it comes to protecting your health, it is better to be “safer rather than sorry.”
The precautionary principle is especially helpful to apply during pregnancy because the baby is developing and growing every day. The systems that form the body and brain are being built. The future health and wellness of the baby can be affected long term by substances that the mother is exposed to or ingests.
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Since there is no known safe amount of marijuana during pregnancy, it is important to stay away from it and other substances — tobacco, secondhand smoke, vaping, and alcohol — during pregnancy.
We do know some things about marijuana use and pregnancy.
▪ The active ingredients in marijuana pass to the baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The active ingredients in marijuana are stored in body fat and stay in an adult’s body for 25-57 hours. The active ingredients in marijuana take even longer to pass out of the bodies of unborn babies, infants, and children.
▪ Marijuana smoked during pregnancy is directly linked to low birth weight in babies. Low-birth-weight babies are at an increased risk for certain health issues when compared to babies born at a normal or healthy weight. These health issues include diabetes and heart disease later in life.
▪ Avoiding marijuana use (including edibles and liquids) during pregnancy and breastfeeding gives your baby the best chance to be healthy.
Talk with your health care provider if you have concerns during your pregnancy. They can answer questions for you and offer resources for help.