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The Effects of Smoking Weed While Pregnant

Weed is a drug derived from the plant Cannabis sativa. It’s used for recreational and medicinal purposes.

What a mom-to-be puts on her skin, eats, and smokes affects her baby. Weed is one substance that can potentially impact a developing baby’s health.

Weed (also known as marijuana, pot, or bud) is the dried portion of the Cannabis sativa plant. People smoke or eat weed for its effects on the body. It can cause euphoria, relaxation, and enhanced sensory perception. In most states, recreational use is illegal.

Weed’s active compound is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This compound can cross a mother’s placenta to get to her baby during pregnancy.

But weed’s effects during pregnancy can be difficult to determine. This is because many women who smoke or eat weed also use substances like alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. As a result, it’s tough to say which is causing a problem.

Weed is the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy. Studies have tried to estimate the exact number of pregnant women who use weed, but results vary.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 2 to 5 percent of women use weed during pregnancy. This number goes up for certain groups of women. For example, young, urban, and socioeconomically disadvantaged women report higher rates of use that reach up to 28 percent.

Doctors have linked weed use during pregnancy with increased risk for complications. These may include:

  • low birth weight
  • premature birth
  • small head circumference
  • small length
  • stillbirth

Researchers mostly study the effects of weed use during pregnancy on animals. Experts say exposure to THC can affect a baby’s brain development .

Babies born to mothers who smoke weed during pregnancy don’t have serious signs of withdrawal. However, other changes may be noted.

Research is ongoing, but a baby whose mother used weed during pregnancy may have problems as they get older. The research isn’t clear: Some older research reports no long-term developmental differences, but newer research is showing some problems for these children.

THC is considered a developmental neurotoxin by some. A child whose mother used weed during pregnancy may have trouble with memory, attention, controlling impulses, and school performance. More research is needed.

What a mom-to-be puts on her skin, eats, and smokes affects her baby. Using weed during pregnancy can be dangerous for your developing baby-to-be. THC can have an effect on your baby’s brain development and types of available weed can vary. Here’s why doctors recommend that you not smoke weed if you’re expecting.

9 Things Smoking Weed Does to Your Body

When it comes to polarizing health topics, few subjects spark more debate than weed (except maybe CrossFit or the Paleo Diet). Can it improve your health? Lower stress? Make you more forgetful? Even make you thinner?

The science is still, well, hazy—but some research is starting to give us an idea of what exactly weed does to the human body.

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For instance: Toking up regularly could dull your emotional response and cause addiction, according to a marijuana study from the University of Michigan Health System. Researchers analyzed 108 people in their early 20s (69 men and 39 women), all of whom were taking part in a larger study of substance use. In the study, participants sat in an MRI while they played a game, in which they pressed a button when they saw a target on a computer screen cross in front of them. Before each round, they were told they could win 20 cents or $5—or they might lose that amount, or have no reward or loss. Scientists assessed the moment of anticipation (a.k.a. when volunteers knew they could get a few dollars richer).

Now, you’d think getting free money would be cause for excitement, but scientists found the more marijuana use volunteers reported, the less their reward centers were activated.

“Over time, marijuana use was associated with a lower response to a monetary reward,” study author and neuroscientist Mary Heitzeg, Ph.D, said in a press release. “This means that something that would be rewarding to most people was no longer rewarding to them, suggesting but not proving that their reward system has been ‘hijacked’ by the drug, and that they need the drug to feel reward—or that their emotional response has been dampened.”

That’s not all. Smoking weed might also be more addicting than you think.

Marijuana Can Relieve Pain and Improve Athletic Recovery. So Why Isn’t It Legal .

“Some people may believe that marijuana is not addictive or that it’s ‘better’ than other drugs that can cause dependence,” Heitzeg said. “But this study provides evidence that it’s affecting the brain in a way that may make it more difficult to stop using it. It changes your brain in a way that may change your behavior, and where you get your sense of reward from.”

To be fair: Even if one scientific study suggests that marijuana might help your bones grow or hurt your short-term memory, that doesn’t necessarily make it true. All this research is still developing, and it’ll be a long time before we know anything for sure about weed’s effects on the human body. Still, it’s good to know where the science is heading.

Find out all the other ways—good and bad—marijuana could be influencing your health.

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Find out 9 ways marijuana could be influencing your health. The science is still hazy—but research is giving us an idea of what weed does to the body.