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The use of marijuana during pregnancy has been linked with an increased chance of developing labour, fetal and future complications. These complications included premature labour, brain malformations and developmental delays and behavioural changes.

Marijuana is mainly an illicit drug which contains the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is rapidly absorbed by the body regardless of the route of consumption. It is available nearly everywhere on the planet and has been legalized for medicinal and recreational use in some countries, especially in Europe and North America.

THC causes certain effects on the body which is the reason why people use this drug. They are as follows:

  • Elevated mood.
  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Increased appetite.

Adverse effects

Marijuana can have some unwanted effects which can become bothersome and problematic and they include:

  • Acute anxiety.
  • Auditory and/or visual hallucinations.
  • Paranoia.
  • Dry mouth and blurry vision.
  • Decreased motor skills.
  • Impaired short-term memory.

These adverse effects can last from hours to days depending on the rate of marijuana use. Issues such as short term memory loss and decreased motor skills and coordination seem to last up to a few weeks though.

Effects of marijuana on pregnancy

As mentioned, THC is rapidly absorbed by the body and this can occur from within seconds, when inhaled, up to a few minutes if consumed orally. THC is known to also be able to cross the placenta and enter the bloodstream of the fetus. This means that the fetus is definitely exposed to this psychogenic chemical. 

Marijuana use during pregnancy has resulted in complications which were brought to light through anecdotal evidence, collected from questionnaires completed by mothers who had used this drug, and from clinical studies that were done.  

These complications had included the following issues:

  • The incidence of high risk pregnancies were increased. Here, the expectant mothers had experienced premature labour and delivery of the baby which resulted in the newborns being admitted to intensive care facilities. The newborn babies had to be cared for in these facilities due to their low birth weights and also possibly due to their lungs not having developed properly yet. It was found that these mothers would use marijuana on a regular basis (weekly and even daily use), and their babies were two times more likely of being transferred to a neonatal ICU after delivery as opposed to babies whose mothers didn't use the drug.
  • The incidence of brain malformations occurring in babies whose mothers used marijuana were doubled as opposed to babies whose mothers who hadn't used the drug.
  • Long term complications were also found in children whose mothers had used marijuana whilst pregnant with them. These issues had included cognitive and behavioural changes which were present in 3 year old children.
  • In a study done on 4 year old children, whose mothers had used marijuana on a daily basis, it was found that they had scored lower on memory tests that were conducted on them. It was determined, though, that there wasn't any negative impact on these children's intelligence levels. Unfortunately, by 10 years of age, it was found that these children had an increased chance of developing attention deficit disorders.
It's clear from this information that there are risks associated with the use of marijuana during pregnancy. Not only are there associated problems which can occur during the developmental phase of the fetus, but also during and after labour as well as years later.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Fried, P. A., Watkinson, B., & Willan, A. (1984). Marijuana use during pregnancy and decreased length of gestation. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 150(1), 23-27.
  • Psychoyos, D., & Vinod, K. Y. (2012). Marijuana, Spice, “herbal high”, and early neural development: Implications for rescheduling and legalization. Drug Testing & Analysis 5(1), 27–45.
  • Calvigioni, D., Hurd, Y. L., Harkany, T., & Keimpema, E. (2014). Neuronal substrates and functional consequences of prenatal cannabis exposure. European Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 23, 931–941.
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