Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. Before the 1960s, most Americans had never heard of marijuana, but today it is the most often used illegal drug in this country. Cannabis is a term that refers to marijuana and other drugs made from the same plant. All forms of cannabis are mind-altering or psychoactive drugs; they all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. Marijuana’s effect on the user depends on the strength or potency of the THC it contains. It may also contain more than 400 other chemicals that may be harmful.
Scientific studies on marijuana have been extensive, however, few have been able to pin point the exact harmful effects of marijuana with conviction. And there is little medical evidence on the effects of marijuana on pregnancy. But though all of the long-term effects of marijuana use are not yet known, there are a few studies that indicate serious health concerns. For example, a group of scientists in California examined the health status of 450 daily smokers of marijuana but not tobacco. They found that the marijuana smokers had more sick days and more doctor visits for respiratory problems and other types of illness than did a similar group who did not smoke either substance.
Marijuana and Pregnancy Test Results
Marijuana has shown to have some adverse effects on fetus and babies. Doctors advise women who wish to conceive to not use any drugs because they might harm the growing fetus. But there has been no connection established as to how marijuana can affect pregnancy test results. One animal study has linked marijuana use to loss of the fetus very early in pregnancy though there are no other serious changes in the physiology of pregnant females due to marijuana.
Marijuana users often use other drugs, including alcohol, and it can be difficult to separate out the effects of pot from those of other substances. Some scientific studies have found that babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancy display altered responses to visual stimulation, increased tremors, and a high-pitched cry, which may indicate problems with nervous system development. During pre and early school years, children born of marijuana-exposed women have also been reported to have more behavioral problems and difficulties with sustained attention and memory than non-exposed children.
Marijuana and Nursing
Marijuana does not seem to cause any increase in birth defects but a study has shown a lower birth weight in babies whose moms smoked pot throughout pregnancy, though other studies have not shown this association. When a nursing mother uses marijuana, some of the THC is passed to the baby in her breast milk. This is a matter for concern, since the THC in the mother’s milk is much more concentrated than that in the mother’s blood. One study has shown that the use of marijuana by a mother during the first month of breastfeeding can impair the infant’s motor development (control of muscle movement). Researchers are not certain yet whether any effects of marijuana during pregnancy persist as the child grows up; however, because some parts of the brain continue to develop into adolescence, it is also possible that certain kinds of problems will become more evident as the child matures.
Remember that marijuana contains an incredible number of chemical substances, many of which have not yet been identified. There is no doubt that many of these can be potentially hazardous to mothers and babies alike since they are brain-altering chemicals. We do not know the potential long-term consequences if used during pregnancy. But there is a possibility that marijuana use may affect your pregnancy results and your pregnancy itself. For best results and peace of mind, marijuana, like all drugs, should be avoided in pregnancy, for the same reasons that no medication should be used in pregnancy without your doctor’s knowledge.