Each year, nearly four million babies are born in America, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around 27 for every 1,000 of them will be born addicted to drugs, according to data from 2013 reported by the Daily Mail. This is an alarming trend that is only on the uptick in this country. Sadly, most of these babies spend their first days, weeks and months in Neonatal Intensive Care Units struggling to breathe on their own and are often diagnosed with failure to thrive. Some will even lose their lives in the fight to survive. Others will pass later from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which may be connected to their health during fetal development in utero.
While some very harmful substances — such as opiates — are being abused by the mothers to these babies, others are opting for slightly milder drugs and wondering if they just might be okay. Marijuana is the most common substance that moms-to-be abuse and question its safety. Some people say it’s far preferable for medicinal use than prescription alternatives. Others say it is intensely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs, but what does the research say? Does smoking weed affect pregnancy?
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Marijuana is no longer just a drug of abuse. Rather, it’s become one with medicinal purposes that many people have been aware of for a long time. Official recognition of marijuana as medicine didn’t come until 1996 when California legalized it for medicinal use. Many years later in 2012, Colorado and Washington both legalized it for recreational use, too. In the years since, 23 other states have followed suit and legalized it medicinally while two states and the District of Columbia have also legalized the recreational use of the drug.
Marijuana laws are changing at a rapid pace across all 50 states, making things a bit confusing at times. In order to keep up with the ever-changing laws, check out this interactive map for information on legalization, medical use, recreational use, and anything in between.
There are many different ways to use marijuana, and it’s important to make the distinction between them, because the delivery may be the catalyst for harm in some cases. For example, smoking marijuana does contribute to damage of lung and esophageal tissues, but eating it in edibles like brownies and marijuana gummy bears does not.
Marijuana can be smoked when rolled up like a cigarette; this is called a joint. It can also be rolled into cigar papers — known as a blunt. Some people may choose to smoke it through a pipe or bong; others will smoke dabs of it with a rig — a device that is similar to a bong. Certain people prefer bubblers, because they produce a smoother smoking experience. Other interesting ways to consume marijuana include:
- Brewing weed teas
- Using a vaporizer
- Taking it in pill form packed into capsules
- Placing drops of it from a tincture of marijuana under the tongue
- Spraying tincture concentrates into the mouth
- Baking it into food items, commonly desserts or sauces
Prenatal and Fetal Development
As a pregnancy progresses, the risks posed to a developing baby do not decline just because the baby is getting bigger and stronger. Up until 24 weeks, there isn’t even a presumed chance of viability outside of the womb. Even at that time, it is a grim chance to say the least. There is some evidence that marijuana may contribute to fertilized embryos implanting outside the uterus, such as inside the fallopian tubes — a condition known as ectopic pregnancy, per The Telegraph. These pregnancies are not viable.
People often compare smoking marijuana with smoking cigarettes, but the two are not the same. Cigarettes contain many more toxins than marijuana does. When cigarettes or marijuana is smoked the toxins end up being passed to the baby. Even though the placenta’s job is to filter out toxins that could be dangerous to the developing baby, it doesn’t catch everything.
There are no conclusive studies that definitively prove that marijuana use during pregnancy contributes to the development of birth defects. There are also no studies that definitively prove harm will come to the baby; smoking weed doesn’t contribute to birth defects they say. That’s not the only issue, either. The risk of miscarriage and stillbirth is real. Given that smoking cigarettes may contribute to both, it isn’t a far stretch to assume smoking other drugs could possibly do the same.
Some couples feel encouraged to use marijuana medicinally when trying to conceive. Many of them seek it out for its stress-reducing advantages. Be that as it may, it can reduce the overall chance of pregnancy before it even starts, too. There is substantial evidence that using marijuana can reduce sperm count, but it also affects the quality of the sperm, too. A lot of people often think that sperm count is all that matters on the man’s side of the spectrum when it comes to getting pregnant, but sperm quality is strongly tied to the success of conception. The best chance of conception comes down to two healthy people who are abstaining from drug and alcohol use in addition to any other lifestyle factors that could hinder conception.
Alternatives for Weed During Pregnancy
The reason many people seek marijuana during pregnancy is because the alternatives don’t please them. This isn’t surprising. Some of the alternatives include drugs like benzodiazepines and antidepressants. Hormones are raging during pregnancy and all that added progesterone and estrogen can really complicate life for some mothers-to-be. Antenatal depression and anxiety are real issues that plague many women.
Doctors often reach for their prescription pads when these ladies come to them seeking help for all their fears and worries, but not everyone is keen on taking those kinds of medications while pregnant, and for good reason. While certain antidepressant medications — such as certain Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors — are considered safe during pregnancy, there are risks even with those. Most of them include pregnancies that result in birth defects. It comes down to a risk versus benefit analysis for any woman who must consider these forms of treatment.
Some women choose to forego any medications at all. Others reach for more natural alternatives. What one must be sure not to forget is that natural does not automatically equate to safe, but the question remains as to whether marijuana may be just that. If not totally safe, it still may be a safer option for women who want to protect their growing babies from as much risk as possible.