Studies show that consuming cannabis (marijuana, hashish, weed, pot, etc.) while pregnant or breastfeeding can result in negative health impacts on developing fetuses and infants. Research also suggests that cannabis use during adolescence can be harmful to the health and well-being of youth.
Possible negative effects of using cannabis during pregnancy include fetal growth restriction and low birth weight. Research has demonstrated that cannabis use may increase the chance of having a stillbirth. Evidence also indicates cannabis use during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding, can affect infant neurodevelopment.
Regardless of the method of consumption (smoking, vaping, eating or drinking), the active ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is present in the breast milk of people who use cannabis and is transmitted to infants who nurse. Infants exposed to breast milk that contains THC may have trouble nursing because of sedation, reduced muscular tone and poor sucking ability.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants not be exposed to cannabis, given research demonstrating it may have negative effects on health and brain development. Secondhand smoke from cannabis products entering the lungs of infants and children contains THC as well as many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke.
Since the brain is still developing into the mid-20s, using cannabis during adolescence can negatively affect the developing brain, leading to short-term and long-term consequences. Such consequences may jeopardize educational, professional and social achievements.
Regular cannabis use has been linked to anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and death by suicide, especially for teens with a family history of mental illness. Although rare, cannabis use also increases the risk of schizophrenia and other psychoses, with the highest risk among those who use cannabis more frequently.
It is important to ask your patients about their cannabis use and provide information, without judgment, about safety concerns and referral for treatment if needed. As acceptance of cannabis use increases, it is important to counsel pregnant people on the potential medical consequences of use during pregnancy.
Vermont Department of Health
108 Cherry Street, Suite 207