Numerous studies have confirmed the harmful effects of smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy; however, the effects of smoking cannabis, while expecting a child, are still not clear.
Sarah Konefal, a research and policy analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, has thrown more light on the topic, via an interview with CBC.
Things are known so far about smoking cannabis during pregnancy
Citing a few studies, Konefal said that daily or near-daily consumption of cannabis increases the likelihood of a baby being born with low weight. Furthermore, the chemicals in cannabis interfere with the cognition and behavior in children and adolescents that may persist in early adulthood. This could lead to poor academic achievement.
However, all the above-mentioned effects have been linked to ‘smoking’ cannabis. Scientists have no clue whatsoever as to how a fetus (or a baby) is affected if cannabis is consumed through other forms. But one thing that is certain is the fact that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in marijuana, does enter the breast milk, which implies that it enters the body of the infant, gets metabolized, and is finally excreted. So there may be a potential risk.
Occasional use of cannabis during pregnancy
Konefal is of the view that in the absence of concrete modern-day research that connects the outcomes of smoking cannabis to pregnancy, one simply can’t decide if even occasional use is safe, especially when the terms ‘occasion’ and ‘sometimes’ are vague and vary from person to person – for one individual occasional might be once a month, while for others it may be once a week.
Some advice from the expert herself
Sarah Konefal believes that telling a future mother to completely cut on cannabis may not be the right approach, especially if she is in a habit of taking cannabis regularly. However, before more compelling research is available, one can’t be certain and continue with the same quantity and frequency of marijuana as they were consuming earlier. So, the best practice would be to cut down on the intake, reduce the frequency.
What Canadian Paediatrics Society thinks about the matter
Paediatricians think that ‘potential risks’ can’t be overlooked, especially when the future of life is at ‘stake’.
The hindrances in the path to a conclusion
Since Cannabis was illegal in Canada until recently (and is still federally illegal in the United States), getting the required funds and the quantities of cannabis, even for the purpose of the research was a tedious task.
Another obstacle that has kept researchers from arriving at a definite conclusion is the difference in strains. While one strain may be high in THC and low in other cannabinoids like CBD, the other might have completely opposite composition.
What pregnant women think
A survey conducted in 2012 found that 70% of pregnant mothers thought of alcohol as a risky substance to use, while only 2% of the respondents considered cannabis as a threat.
Until more conclusive studies are available, tread softly!