The Effects of Smoking Weed While Pregnant
Weed is a drug derived from the plant Cannabis sativa. It’s used for recreational and medicinal purposes.
What a mom-to-be puts on her skin, eats, and smokes affects her baby. Weed is one substance that can potentially impact a developing baby’s health.
Weed (also known as marijuana, pot, or bud) is the dried portion of the Cannabis sativa plant. People smoke or eat weed for its effects on the body. It can cause euphoria, relaxation, and enhanced sensory perception. In most states, recreational use is illegal.
Weed’s active compound is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This compound can cross a mother’s placenta to get to her baby during pregnancy.
But weed’s effects during pregnancy can be difficult to determine. This is because many women who smoke or eat weed also use substances like alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. As a result, it’s tough to say which is causing a problem.
Weed is the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy. Studies have tried to estimate the exact number of pregnant women who use weed, but results vary.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 2 to 5 percent of women use weed during pregnancy. This number goes up for certain groups of women. For example, young, urban, and socioeconomically disadvantaged women report higher rates of use that reach up to 28 percent.
Doctors have linked weed use during pregnancy with increased risk for complications. These may include:
- low birth weight
- premature birth
- small head circumference
- small length
Researchers mostly study the effects of weed use during pregnancy on animals. Experts say exposure to THC can affect a baby’s brain development .
Babies born to mothers who smoke weed during pregnancy don’t have serious signs of withdrawal. However, other changes may be noted.
Research is ongoing, but a baby whose mother used weed during pregnancy may have problems as they get older. The research isn’t clear: Some older research reports no long-term developmental differences, but newer research is showing some problems for these children.
THC is considered a developmental neurotoxin by some. A child whose mother used weed during pregnancy may have trouble with memory, attention, controlling impulses, and school performance. More research is needed.
What a mom-to-be puts on her skin, eats, and smokes affects her baby. Using weed during pregnancy can be dangerous for your developing baby-to-be. THC can have an effect on your baby’s brain development and types of available weed can vary. Here’s why doctors recommend that you not smoke weed if you’re expecting.
Does smoking pot affect my birth control?
By Teen Health Source
|It’s important to be clear that so far (as of September 2020) there hasn’t been enough research on cannabis and birth control to come up with any solid conclusion on how they interact. Most of the info you can find online right now is from really early studies or on theoretical works. This doesn’t mean that there’s no interaction between birth control and cannabis, but just that there’s not a clear answer on if smoking pot for sure makes birth control less effective.|
So with that being said, let’s go over the data that is out there:
THC and CBD
Right now when research is exploring the effects from cannabis, it’s mainly talking about two things: THC and CBD.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the thing in cannabis that is responsible for its intoxicating, psychoactive effects. This is what makes people high.
On the chemistry side, there’s a theory that THC may interrupt signaling between estrogen receptors in your body. This could potentially affect how your body absorbs and responds to estrogen in birth control, possibly making it less effective.
THC can also have side effects on your general health, not just your reproductive health. THC can cause an increased heart rate, which could potentially increase your risk of blood clots. Being on birth control can also increase your risk of blood clots, as can a family history of blood clots, smoking, or being over 35 years old. If you are at a higher risk for getting blood clots because of factors like age or family history, your clinician may recommend that you avoid smoking or consuming THC.
CBD (cannabidiol) is the part of cannabis that is responsible for creating feelings of relaxation and calm. It has little to no intoxicating effect.
When CBD is absorbed into the body, it can sometimes monopolize certain metabolic enzymes. For example, when your liver enzymes are flooded with CBD, they become monopolized by it and your liver can’t process any other compounds until the CBD is gone. In theory this could impact if and when your body is able to process the hormones in birth control, possibly making it less effective.
Some studies suggest that estrogen-containing hormonal birth control (i.e., certain birth control pills, patches, and rings) are more impacted by CBD enzymes, which can possibly make them less effective. This does not seem to be the case for progestin-only hormonal birth control (i.e., birth control pills, hormonal IUDs, or the injection).
How does it get into your body?
The way that drugs or medications interact can depend on how they get into the body. For example, if you’re eating edibles and taking the birth control pill, they are both being absorbed by the stomach. Both of them getting absorbed in the same way could potentially cause them to interact. If you smoke pot and have a hormonal IUD, they are less likely to have an interaction, as things are getting absorbed separately in your lungs and in your uterus.
Cannabis and Pregnancy Risk
The article Research Says Smoking Cannabis May Lower Chances of Getting Pregnant from 2019 covers findings which indicate that:
- Cannabis increases sperm count.
- Cannabis decreases sperm concentration.
- Cannabis can delay ovulation by up to 2 days.
However, there are a number of factors that can mean these results are inaccurate or only temporary. How often someone uses cannabis (occasional vs regular users) might affect how strong of an impact the drug has on your body. There is also some evidence that bodies can adapt to cannabis use over time, so the effects might not be so strongly felt after a number of years.
Where are you getting your information from?
As we noted at the beginning, there hasn’t yet been enough research done to say conclusively how smoking pot will affect your birth control. As more studies and articles come out in the subject, it’s worth paying attention to where you’re getting the information from. Important things to notice include:
How recent is the data?
The more recent the study or the article, the more likely it is to include the latest information.
Who was in the study?
There are currently no studies that monitor human subjects who are using hormonal birth control and smoking pot. Until then, the results are necessarily relevant or specific to how it works in humans.
Who is publishing the article?
Most of the articles that are easy to find online are from cannabis-specific outlets, either from companies that sell cannabis products or news outlets that make money off of selling ads to cannabis companies. While this doesn’t mean everything they share is sketchy, they certainly have a pro-pot bias that could impact how certain findings are interpreted. Be sure to check an article’s sources, see if you can look at the original studies, or find another news outlet that is also talking about the new data.
If you ever have questions about how different drugs and medications might interact, we always recommend checking in with a clinician or pharmacist.
- RX Leaf: Does Cannabis Make Birth Control Ineffective?
- RX Leaf: Research Says Smoking Cannabis May Lower Chances of Getting Pregnant
- HealthLine: CBD vs. THC – What’s the Difference?
- Flowertown: Does cannabis affect my birth control?
- Doc MJ: Can You Use Cannabis in Ohio if You’re on Birth Control?
If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]
It's never a bad idea to see if what medications might interact with your birth control, but does that include cannabis? Maybe yes! Check this post to learn more about the state of information out there about pot and hormonal birth control.