Pot While Preggers?

Hey Mamas,

I recently read your answer to the mom who wrote in about her husband, who smokes pot every day. I’m 29, and my husband and I are trying to get pregnant for the first time. Boy, have you got me worried!

We look at weed the same way you might see a glass of wine or a cocktail.  I know that alcohol isn’t recommended during pregnancy, but I’ve never heard anything about pot being dangerous to the baby. I don’t smoke every day — far from it — but a little herbal relaxation is nice now and then.

What are the facts? What research has been done on marijuana in pregnancy? No spin please — just the facts.


Dear Ann,

Thanks for having the guts to ask the question. We like your style.

As you can imagine, the research on this subject is scant, with results all over the map. But some of the findings are worth considering when you’re trying to conceive.

Eric A. Voth, MD, chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy (an alliance of physicians, lawyers, and drug specialists formed recently by the Drug Free America Foundation) is convinced that smoking pot reduces fertility.  “Significant use will reduce the actual sperm counts, and then there is the secondary effect,” says Voth, an internal medicine and addiction medicine specialist. “Some people say it is an aphrodisiac, but it can really reduce sexual performance and testosterone.”

A team of researchers from Buffalo, the University of Connecticut, Eastern Virginia Medical School, and the University of California at Irvine, agrees.  They showed that anandamide — a marijuana-like compound — slows the sperm’s swimming and may inhibit the sperm from binding to the egg’s coat. There is no evidence that the effect is irreversible, but the more someone smokes, the longer it could take to become pregnant.

In addition to fertility issues, marijuana has been linked in some studies to low birth weight, behavioral problems, poor growth, physical abnormalities, lower IQ, and difficulty with language comprehension and memory. But most studies on marijuana focus on neurological effects, rather than reproductive ones, so more work needs to be done.

The fact is, cannabinoids in marijuana are extremely fat-soluble, which means they accumulate and are stored in body fat. It can take weeks to months for them to be cleared. Virtually 100% of THC (the chemical in pot that makes you high) in blood will cross the placenta. This is a big concern, even if we don’t have hard data about the ultimate effects.

Even the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) agrees that women who are pregnant or those trying to conceive should take a break from getting high.

According to NORML’s executive director, Keith Stroup:  “There’s no definitive research that smoking harms the fetus, but I do think physicians would urge, ‘Don’t use any drugs’.  Common sense tells us it’s smarter to avoid it.”

Mamas see it this way: while you’re pregnant, avoid anything that you wouldn’t want to feed to an infant.  You wouldn’t puree it, would you?

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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