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Marijuana & Pregnancy: What We Know

Limited research is creating real problems in understanding the impact of cannabis not only on an expectant mother, but her child as well.  

Could what we know about marijuana and pregnancy be factually incorrect? Studies dating back to the 1970s have shown marijuana has had effects on birth weight, length of gestation, and more. One recent study aimed to prove whether or not past research was sound in its findings. 

Point: Marijuana appears to hurt the fetus

Recently Georgetown University Medical Center shared their study with the journal bioMed Central (BMC) Pharmacology and Toxicology. The study’s senior investigator, G. Ian Gallicano, Ph.D., explained that while old research shows that marijuana seems to have the same effects on the fetus as tobacco, limited research is creating real problems in understanding the side effects of cannabis not only on an expectant mother, but her child as well.  

Scrutinizing the literature on marijuana and fetal development compiled between 1975 and 2015, the study found warning flags for pregnant women using marijuana. Studies suggested that the elevation of cannabinoids can interfere with both the transportation of a fertilized egg out of the fallopian tube and its implantation in the uterus, increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy and spontaneous abortion.  

RELATED: The Impact Cannabis Use During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding Has On Newborns

The study also found that marijuana can alter the placenta and even pass easily through it to act directly on the developing fetus. To use a medical term, this can potentially “screw up” every aspect of development: the growth of brain and nerve cells, laying down of blood vessels, cellular development, tissue differentiation, and cognitive development.

Cannabis While Pregnant
Photo by Janko Ferlic via Pexels

This fear is purely hypothetical. Still, it does certainly point to the study’s overall conclusion — one which is echoed in nearly every medical marijuana report — that “far too little research has been conducted on the effects of cannabis.”

CounterPoint: The evidence on Marijuana during pregnancy is flawed

Vox.com put out an interesting report against old research on marijuana and pregnancy in May 2019 when it spoke to Marie Clare McCormick, a Harvard professor and chair of the National Academy of Sciences. 

McCormick explains that the belief that children born of women who smoked marijuana during pregnancy are consistent with women smoking any substance during pregnancy, as smoking increased carbon monoxide in the blood, delivering less oxygen to the fetus. McCormick also summarized a report that looked into other health issues during pregnancy (SIDS, academic achievement challenges,) and found little evidence to support the claims. 

RELATED: More Women Are Using Marijuana Before Pregnancy—Is That Good Or Bad?

Those on the counterpoint side of the argument speak to the fact that expectant mothers who suffer anxiety and other diseases often are asked to stop those medications as well, as many pose mild-to-moderate risks. 

One truth is evident. In order for researchers to have more information to draw from, marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 substance won’t allow for it to be tested — at least inside the United States and that could be problematic as women are smoking pot more than ever before while pregnant

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