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Marijuana Moms

Category: Maternal Health

Publisher Donald Peterson Jr. of DYNAMICCHIROPRACTIC.COM in the October 2018 edition wonders if “history is repeating itself” with the increase in pregnant women using marijuana. He wonders if it might lead to another epidemic like the one Thalidomide caused in the 50’s and 60’s. A 2016 study shows an almost 44% increase in use of marijuana by pregnant women in the U.S. as compared to 2015 – that’s almost 1 in 20 mothers. The increase is rooted in dispensaries selling marijuana as a cure for morning sickness.

Research shows that Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC in marijuana that is the chemical that causes the “high” affect “can easily reach the baby through the placenta and accumulate in the developing brain.” Peterson notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics has a report showing the results of two longitudinal studies from the Outpatient Prospective Payment System and the Maternal Health Practices and Child Development. This is how they “describe the potential impact on prenatally exposed individuals:

  • Beginning at 9 months – impaired mental development
  • Beginning at age 4 – lower verbal reasoning and memory scores; executive function deficits
  • Beginning at age 6 – deficits in language comprehension, memory, visual and perceptive function; increased impulsivity and hyperactivity
  • Ages 9-12 – deficits in executive function, impulse control and visual problem solving; increased hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention
  • Ages 13-16 – problems with attention, problem solving, visual integration and analytical skills
  • Ages 16-21 – higher rates of depression”*

Some people point to studies done long ago saying that marijuana use by mothers has little effect on the unborn fetus. These studies were conducted when marijuana had much lower levels of THC. The potential for harm to an unborn fetus is also increased by exposure to higher concentrations of THC. Peterson notes that the potency of marijuana today is 8 to 10 times greater than the 80’s and with dabbing and vaping the delivery of THC is even more concentrated. Toxins that are used in the farming practices of marijuana such as fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and rodenticides are also exposed to the unborn child with marijuana use during pregnancy.

Peterson also explores the potential harm of mothers using marijuana while breast feeding because THC “pollutes” the breast milk. He cites a study in the August 2018 issue of Pediatrics where 63% of moms using marijuana showed concentrations of THC in their breast milk up to six days after use.** Other studies “suggest THC accumulates in breast milk, and infants absorb and metabolize the THC in the breast milk. Since at this time breast milk is the main source of nourishment when the infant brain is developing quickly, there is a potential for altering brain development. Thus Peterson concludes that prenatal exposure to marijuana can affect the child’s development throughout and into adulthood.

Thalidomide was a drug used to treat the side effects of pregnancy in the 50’s and 60’s that resulted in children with many deformities not to mention miscarriages and infant mortality. With the now more prevent use of marijuana during pregnancy is marijuana the new Thalidomide?

*Ryan RA, Ammerman SD, O’Connor ME. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention; AAP Section on Breastfeeding. Marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding: implications for neonatal and childhood outcomes. Pediatrics, Aug. 27, 2018; 142 (3):e20181889.

**Bertrand KA, Hanan NJ, Honorkamp-Smith G, Best BM, Chambers CD. Marijuana use by breastfeeding mothers and cannabinoid concentrations in breast milk. Pediatrics, Aug. 27, 2018 (online first)

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