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April 15, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Smoking Pot in Pregnancy — Should You?

As more and more women do it, science says not so fast. Much more needs to be known about what is possibly happening to your developing fetus' brain and more.

Morning sickness and headaches plagued Marilou Rocco in early pregnancy. Sometimes it was so bad she felt like she couldn't function and it was all she could do to drive her toddler to day care and get to her job. One night watching TV after her little one was in bed, she took a puff off of her husband's weed vape pen and her nausea was soothed — but was that OK?

The answer is loaded with controversy.

For one thing, pot is legal for medical purposes in 33 states and for medical and recreational uses in 11. The loosening up of laws surrounding cannabis has attributed to a more relaxed view, and while pot's not legal in Tennessee, it's no secret that there's plenty available here. 

Many pregnant women say marijuana is a natural remedy for nausea as opposed to Phenergan (promethazine hydrochloride), which many women complain leaves them exhausted. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there are actually no approved indications or recommendations regarding prenatal marijuana use, so plenty of women are simply taking matters into their own hands.


While women admit to smoking marijuana during pregnancy, they do it
without knowledge of what may be happening to their developing fetus.


Marijuana and morning sickness. Do they go together or not?

For years, researchers have said smoking marijuana is bad for a growing fetus. In fact, for 30-plus years, researchers have known that THC — the active ingredient in cannabis — crosses the placenta to reach the fetus. THC is the chemical in marijuana responsible for a person’s psychological shift. Is it really OK for a developing fetus? And why, with so little known about it, is marijuana use on the rise for pregnant women? Recent data shows  the number of pregnant U.S. pot users has doubled since 2002, with 7 percent reporting recent use and higher rates in some states, specifically California. 

But there IS evidence of an association between prenatal marijuana use and lower offspring birth weight, says Kaiser-Permanente researcher Kelly Young-Wolff.

“Although the health effects of prenatal cannabis use are complex and not well understood, no amount of cannabis has been shown to be safe during pregnancy,” she says.

Clearly, the message is that more research is needed.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is currently conducting three studies on marijuana use in pregnancy to investigate the potential effects of THC on an infant's brain. While we’ve known for years that smoking cigarettes in pregnancy yields low birth-weight infants, the verdict is not out on marijuana … but you DO have to ask, why would marijuana smoke be different?

“Don’t smoke during pregnancy no matter what you’re smoking,” says Marie Clare McCormick, chair of the National Academy of Sciences who has researched the matter. McCormick says smoking any substance increases carbon monoxide in the blood, which reduces the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity.

The bottom line? Until we know more about smoking marijuana in pregnancy, you probably shouldn't do it.

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.