News on Wellness

Risks of Marijuana Use for Pregnant Women, Nursing Moms

preganant-womanAs reported to a local television station, one mother was barred from breastfeeding her premature newborn because of regularly using medical marijuana. Although she could not be forced, after giving birth, this mother was asked by staff at the Oregon Health Science Hospital to sign a waiver acknowledging she understood potential risks of breastfeeding associated with smoking pot.

It has been proven that things put in the body while nursing are transferred to the baby via milk ducts. Even though there are natural filters within the body, no one really knows the effects of marijuana. As pointed out by an expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center, there is not enough evidence available today to confirm if any risks exist.

Recently, marijuana was added to LactMed’s list produced by the United States National Library of Medicine. While no definite waring is provided, many experts believe active components of marijuana excrete in breast milk, although in very small amounts. Because there is currently no firm information regarding the effects of marijuana use on the nervous system and brain of growing fetuses and newborn babies, distributors of medical marijuana face an ethical dilemma.

In addition to concerns regarding the nervous system and brain, several clinical studies raise concern on how marijuana affects development. In states where smoking medical marijuana is allowed, there are no legal consequences but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) still advises against it. Even Michael Backes, a top medical marijuana expert, strongly discourages pregnant and nursing moms from smoking pot.

In 2013, the AAP made its first statement in years when it claimed most prescription medications can be tolerated by nursing mothers with the exception of certain drugs to include psychiatric medication, painkillers, and herbal treatments.

However, the professor and director of pediatrics and obstetrics of the Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Study Center in New York made the statement, “When we talk about medications, there is a known dose, a known time for taking it, and knowledge about aspects such as solubility, so we can estimate the risk. The trouble with marijuana is that it sort of hangs around in the body. It’s not like taking an aspirin”.

The bottom line is that until more controlled studies to identify risks have been performed, marijuana use should be avoided during pregnancy and while nursing.

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