By: Matthew Esposito, MD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Women & Infants Hospital

Marijuana use – including among pregnant women – is on the rise as states across the country legalize use of the drug. While many risks of marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding are still unknown, there are some we do know.

While the risks to the developing fetus remains an area of active research, the most serious concern is that marijuana could have an effect on the development of the fetal brain. Exposure to marijuana could lead to a higher than normal level of marijuana–related chemicals in the fetus, which might disrupt normal brain development and function.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there was a 62-percent increase in marijuana use among pregnant women from 2002 to 2014. The study also noted that low birth weight and neurodevelopment disorders could be linked to marijuana use in pregnancy.

Other possible risks to the baby include decreased attention span and behavioral concerns during adolescence.

We also know that the active ingredient in marijuana passes from mother to child through breastmilk. In addition to the known risks are those that have not been discovered, which is why the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends women stop smoking marijuana when breastfeeding.

For many women who have been using marijuana, it can be difficult to stop once they become pregnant or are thinking about conceiving. It is important to remember that help is available and it is ok to ask for it.

Women & Infants, in partnership with Project Link at The Providence Center, offers a program that provides various levels of support including access to an intensive outpatient program. This program is designed for women impacted by substance abuse.

Learn More

For more information, please visit the Project Link Program or call (401) 276-4020. If you are using marijuana for medical reasons and are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your care provider about alternative therapies.