Marijuana may be losing its image as a dangerous drug, but mounting research suggests women should steer clear of it if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, according to new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The advice comes as more than half of the states, including California, have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. Growing acceptance of the drug has made it seem harmless, or even beneficial. As a result, doctors fret that more and more babies are being exposed to the drug.
But in a detailed review of existing safety data, researchers cited concerns about marijuana’s effect on children’s short-term growth and long-term neurological development. Their findings were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
“Women should definitely be counseled that it’s not a good idea to use marijuana while pregnant,” said Dr. Seth Ammerman, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford who worked on the report.
In addition, he said, “if you’re breastfeeding, we would encourage you to cut back or quit.” However, if a new mother is not able or willing to do so, she should continue nursing. “The benefits of breastfeeding would outweigh the potential exposure to the infant,” he said.
A second report, also published in Pediatrics, found that THC, the molecule responsible for most of marijuana’s psychoactive effects, accumulates in breast milk for up to six days after the mother’s last use.
The findings come as marijuana use among pregnant women is rising. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that the proportion of pregnant women who said they used marijuana in the past month increased from 2.4% in 2002 to 3.9% in 2014, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. A separate JAMA report of pregnant women treated at Kaiser Permanente medical offices in Northern California found that marijuana use by pregnant women jumped from 4% in 2009 to 7% in 2016.
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