MARIJUANA USE DURING PREGNANCY
WHY DO PREGNANT WOMEN SMOKE MARIJUANA?
Almost all women who smoke during pregnancy were smoking marijuana before they became pregnant. Many mothers stop by the time they realize they are pregnant (often around 4 weeks gestation). However, about 15% of all pregnant women, most of them younger, smoke marijuana longer, because they believe it combats morning sickness. There is no evidence for marijuana's effectiveness for morning sickness. All medical and public health authorities warn against use of marijuana during pregnancy. A few mothers continue use throughout pregnancy, but most who used marijuana during second trimester stopped when morning sickness stopped. Some mothers told our researchers that they believe cannabis from their known source is safer than a pharmaceutical from a large drug company, regardless of whether or not their doctor has recommended it.
CAN MARIJUANA HARM MY BABY?
Overall, babies generally develop normally, unless the mother is a very heavy smoker of marijuana. However, there is great evidence that the development of the brain is poorly affected even by using low levels of marijuana several times per week. There are no effects seen if mothers have stopped marijuana by 4 weeks of gestation, but effects are present if mother continues to use past the 4 week point even if they stop later in pregnancy. Those babies have poorer attention and cuddling than other babies. Cognitive effects have been recorded in Dutch studies throughout childhood, including increased Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in school.
CAN CHOLINE OR PRENATAL VITAMINS HELP?
Higher levels of choline, which you can get from choline supplements, increase the development of the baby's brain to overcome at least some of the adverse effects of marijuana. During prenatal development, THC blocks the CB1 Cannabinoid receptor. The baby’s brain makes its own cannabinoids, which are needed for the development of nerve cells. THC blocks these natural cannabinoids and prevents their beneficial effects. A critical site is on interneurons in the cerebral cortex; interneurons are inhibitory switches that are critical to the brain’s ability to process information. The CHRNA7 gene-based receptors that choline activates are on these same interneurons. This improves the baby’s attention and cuddling. Prenatal vitamins and folic acid have no effect. These early findings do not rule out the possibility of later, as yet undetected effects of marijuana. We concur with public health authorities in warning against marijuana use in pregnancy, despite these initial findings of protective effects of choline.