New study shows harmful effects of marijuana and breastfeeding

5:27 AM, Sep 10, 2018

Many are aware of the dangers associated with smoking marijuana during pregnancy. However, the risks could still be high if breastfeeding moms partake in the activity even after giving birth, according to a new report.

The study shows that traces of the drug can stay in breast milk up to a week.

In a recent article the American Academy of Pediatrics says that marijuana use among pregnant women has increased by 62 percent between 2002 and 2014.

Doctors are warning pregnant or breastfeeding mothers to stay away from marijuana.

“It actually studied 50 women who were marijuana users and breastfeeders, and what they found is that in these women, up to 63 percent of them, still had marijuana found in their breast milk at one week after use,” said Corpus Christi Medical Center Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. Denise Lochner.

Many moms turn to marijuana because it can relieve nausea and anxiety, and since it is legal in many states, more families are inclined to believe it is safe to use.

“The problem is that marijuana, or the actual component is called THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), is actually stored in fatty tissue in the human. As this is released, it can actually affect cell development as well as protein synthesis, which means that the development, particularly of the brain, is being affected by the marijuana ,” said Dr. Lochner.

Breastfeeding has known benefits for both baby and mom, but if a new mom also smokes marijuana, and it turns up in her breast milk, it may affect childhood development.

“When you have a baby developing in utero, which means in pregnancy, or even afterwards with breastfeeding, the rapid brain development is potentially being harmed. The long-term affects are unknown, but it seems to have some sort of effect on development or even on the intellect of the child later in life,” said Lochner.

While further research is still needed to determine what impact marijuana use could have on babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a response to the new report recommending that pregnant and nursing mothers avoid the drug altogether.

The research was published online on August 27 in the journal Pediatrics, a publication of the AAP. Meanwhile, a second troubling report in the same issue of the journal suggested that many pregnant women mistakenly believe that marijuana is harmless.

Prenatal marijuana use is on the rise in the U.S., according to the AAP report. One government study found that about 2.4 percent of pregnant women had smoked pot in the past month in 2002; by 2014, that had increased to almost 4 percent.

At the same time, marijuana is being “touted” on social media as a good remedy for morning sickness, the AAP report authors noted.

And as a growing number of U.S. states legalize marijuana, some women may be left with the impression that the drug is safe to use during pregnancy.

More research is needed to determine the long-term effects marijuana in breast milk has on children, but the study’s authors suggest it is “reasonable to speculate” that exposure to THC “could influence normal brain development” in infants and children.

• There’s no answer to that yet, but nursing mothers are being warned to avoid it: Traces of the drug can show up in breast milk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

• Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets people high, can be detected in breast milk up to six days after use of the drug, according to a study published by the journal Pediatrics.

• The study found that tetrahydrocannabinol was detectable in 63 percent of 54 samples of breast milk from women who said they had used marijuana before pumping.

• In response to evidence that babies are being exposed to marijuana, the A.A.P. recommends that women avoid the drug altogether when they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

• Research into the potential effects of marijuana has become particularly relevant as more states have moved toward legalization and expectant mothers have taken up the drug in increasing numbers. Recreational use is legal in eight states and Washington, and 30 states allow for some form of medical use. New York recently took a step toward allowing recreational marijuana.

• “The fact that marijuana is legal in many states may give the impression the drug is harmless during pregnancy, especially with stories swirling on social media about using it for nausea with morning sickness,” said Sheryl A. Ryan, chairwoman of the A.A.P. Committee on Substance Use and Prevention. “But in fact, this is still a big question.”

• Preliminary research has suggested that THC can cross the placenta and reach the fetus, potentially harming brain development, cognition and birth weight. But studies on the effects of marijuana on pregnancy and lactation are relatively rare.

• The A.A.P. study, which tested breast milk rather than the babies, does not provide evidence of how or if children are affected. It also noted that the amount ingested by infants could vary significantly.

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