Talk with a Doc: Cannabis use while pregnant and breastfeeding

Now that retail cannabis is legal in Washington, there’s a lot of speculation about its potential benefits and harms. Whether it’s marijuana, edibles, CBD products, or any other form, the choice to use cannabis during pregnancy and breastfeeding is nuanced—people have different circumstances and situations that may contribute to using cannabis. However, it is not recommended to use during this time – not even in the form of CBD lotions or edibles. There are established risks from cannabis use that can negatively impact people and their children.

We asked Dr. Joel Carey, M.D., to tell us about these risks. Dr. Carey is a family medicine physician who is earning a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Washington. He is currently working on a project at Public Health – Seattle & King County about informing people of the risks of cannabis use while pregnant or breastfeeding. Here are his key messages:

Cannabis use while pregnant or breastfeeding is a challenging topic. Research shows potential negative impacts, but there’s still a lot to learn about the exact effects on pregnant people and their children. Adding to the confusion are resources that recommend some forms of cannabis to manage pregnancy discomforts, stress, and pain. Plus, since retail and medical use is legal for adults in Washington, some people believe that cannabis isn’t harmful.

All of these factors make it difficult for people to know what is and isn’t recommended about cannabis use while they are pregnant or breastfeeding. So, it’s important to talk about what research shows so far about how cannabis can affect them and their children.

Cannabis use during pregnancy can have negative effects. The THC in cannabis causes mind-altering reactions (aka a “high”), which can affect cognition and judgment. For people who are pregnant, this altered judgement could affect their ability to protect their babies—for example, cannabis use impairs safe driving skills and doubles a person’s risk of a car crash.

There is also evidence that using cannabis during pregnancy can harm fetal brain development and negatively affect kids later in life, including problems with their attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior.

There are safer alternatives to using cannabis to manage morning sickness, nausea, stress, or pain during pregnancy. Healthcare providers can help people learn about different options.

Research on breastfeeding is less extensive, but is still concerning. Research shows that chemicals in cannabis (like THC, CBD, and others) can be passed to babies through breast milk, which may negatively affect their development.

Plus, these chemicals can stay in breast milk for hours to several days—meaning babies are exposed for extended periods of time, and people are unable to know when the chemicals are gone from their breast milk.

Parents and their children may experience additional negative social consequences. A healthcare provider may be mandated to report to the Department of Social and Health Services if they believe a parent’s substance use is causing child abuse or neglect.

Research on the health impacts of cannabis is still limited, due to federal regulations. This means there is not as much evidence as we would like for either the safety or the harms of cannabis. Advocates for cannabis may make claims that are contrary to the risks we describe above. When it comes to pregnancy and children, it makes sense to use a precautionary approach.

There are several helpful resources to learn more about this topic:

  • The Washington Department of Health developed this handy info sheet on “5 Things to Know about marijuana use while pregnant or breastfeeding.” Translated versions are available here – scroll to the bottom of the page.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced this info sheet on “What you need to know about marijuana use and pregnancy.”
  • Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, although geared toward healthcare providers, additionally discuss the current evidence on cannabis use among pregnant and breastfeeding women.

New 5 things to konw

Why is Public Health – Seattle & King County addressing cannabis use in pregnant and breastfeeding people? In May 2018, King County released its Health and Human Services priorities regarding marijuana legalization. One priority is to inform pregnant and breastfeeding women about potential risks. You can learn more about the other priorities in our recent Priority Statement overview post.

Download poster/graphic here

Posted on 2/21/19

58 thoughts on “Talk with a Doc: Cannabis use while pregnant and breastfeeding

  1. I’ve been really curious about this topic for a while because I have seen recreational marijuana shops pop up everywhere in Seattle and, in turn, recreational marijuana use become more normalized. I have also heard many rumors about what kind of marijuana use is “okay” or “safe” during pregnancy as my peers become older and start having children. After seeing these facts, however, I think it’s important that everyone try to inform their friends or relatives who may have heard rumors that it is safe to consume marijuana during pregnancy. I think misinformation has been spread because marijuana is still a taboo subject with not a lot of research on its effects due to it recently being legalized in Washington. Also, research done on pregnant women can sometimes be difficult to conduct for ethical reasons. I am glad to see the research here and hope people become more informed of the potential dangers.

  2. This is a necessary topic to bring to the table, as I think many people think, like Dr. Carey says, that legal = safe. It’s important to draw parallels to other substances, like alcohol or cigarettes, that are legal but still carry risks so people understand how to use the substance safely. It’s also interesting that there is little research on the subject– I never made the connection, but the fact that marijuana is not yet legal on the federal level inhibits this research a lot through funding makes a lot of sense. This only makes this sort of public health campaign more dire, as lack of research only contributes to lack of proper understanding of potential consequences. I also think that in the case of government funds being used for marijuana research, there could be a politicized backlash from people against marijuana use or legalization, even with state funds in Washington. However, I think this public health approach to educating people through materials and knowledge we already have is very beneficial and could potentially prevent many complications for future pregnancies and births. The existing research, as cited by Dr. Carey, has problems of a similar vein as smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol while pregnant, and thus marijuana use while pregnant should be looked at the same way as using substance we already know are dangerous.

    1. I think this is an extremely important topic, given the increased acceptance and availability of marijuana in Seattle today. Given the potential adverse health effects, mothers should avoid using marijuana at the times it can transfer to their children. Despite gaps in research around the effects of marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it seems advisable to err on the side of caution just in case it is damaging in ways we have yet to recognize. As Dr. Carey explained, there are also safer alternatives to marijuana that benefit the mother while keeping the children safe. Although marijuana is legal and perceived as safe, alcohol and tobacco are also legal and are not safe, especially during pregnancy. I would highly recommend any women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding should abstain from using marijuana, and community members should be active in informing loved ones about potential risks about consuming marijuana in these situations when they apply.

  3. Honestly, the use of cannabis during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding has never been a topic I’ve given much thought about. In health classes, we always hear of the dangers of consuming alcohol or smoking tobacco while pregnant, however, we never discuss the effects of cannabis. Although, with the legalization of cannabis and the various uses the substance can provide, I think it’s imperative that society becomes informed and discusses how cannabis affects pregnant and breastfeeding women. It’s important to understand that even though cannabis use is legal, that does not mean it’s safe. Legalizing a substance doesn’t make it not harmful, for example, alcohol is legal but can still lead to harmful and serious health outcomes. Additionally, this article states that research has shown that cannabis use during pregnancy or breastfeeding could lead to development problems for the child, in addition to other negative consequences for the child that could result from the mother’s use of cannabis. In my opinion, for the sake of the child, don’t smoke cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding, stay on the side of precaution. There’s already a long list of foods, drinks, and substances that pregnant women should not consume, what’s one more thing to add to the list?

  4. I think it is great there is knowledge being spread on the use of cannabis during pregnancy. Just because something is legal to buy does not mean it is safe. Though the health impacts of marijuana use and pregnancy are still limited, it should be used with precaution, or not used at all, as chemicals such as THC should be considered as a possible threat if passed through the placenta to the fetus. Just as tobacco can be threatening to the health of a fetus, there is no reason to believe THC cannot be just as dangerous. As research is limited, the use of public health awareness becomes key in this type of issue. For many future mothers, this kind of knowledge can be helpful on its guidance for alternatives to cannabis. I hope to see more research being done to eventually establish dangers of THC, and hope it leads to policies that protect pregnant women.

  5. The normalization of marijuana has been a largely debated topic in the United States and the research in determining its’ side effects are scarce at best currently. However, it is essential that people understand that legal does not ensure that something is safe. Cigarettes and tobacco, for example, are legal but are one of the leading causes of lung cancer in the United States. Although there is little research, it is clear that the lack of research has not benefited the problem, but rather has made it difficult for the public to know the potential risks and consequences of marijuana. Government funds should be provided to determining the benefits and adverse effects of marijuana in order to further understand the issues that arise from using marijuana. Although, I believe the government must be careful not to be too in-support of marijuana research or else they will face extreme backlash from anti-marijuana users. There is no shame in doing the research, but public health professionals shouldn’t rock the boat when they don’t have to. By linking cannabis use to the potential effects on pregnancy, I believe public health professionals have done a justice to the issue by making two public health issues aware at the same time – drug abuse during pregnancy and the issue of marijuana in its’ nature. Their approach to educating the public is key and integral to making sure the public maintains trust and confidence in the public health officials and that the research questions are relevant to the needs of the people.

  6. This was definitely an interesting read. With the popularity and normalization that has accompanied the legalization of marijuana products, it is important that we begin to have these types of conversations. In reading a post like this, it becomes clear that when thinking about pregnancy and children, it is of utmost importance to use precautionary measures. Since this topic may not be talked about as much as it should be, it is essential that doctors are having these conversations with pregnant patients, in efforts to educate women on the possible negative health outcomes associated with risky behaviors. Furthermore, we should be focusing on the early years of our future generations. There are numerous studies that have emphasized the importance of a child’s earliest years, and the impacts that environmental exposures can have on their developing bodies. Therefore, we should automatically be questioning already risky behaviors, such as marijuana usage, when linking these actions to their possible effects on our developing youth. Despite the difficulty of this topic, it is key that more research and conversation is done regarding these exposures and outcomes. With that being said, I think that this post does a great job of introducing progressive ways to analyze marijuana use during pregnancy. By taking a proactive public health approach to this topic, I think that infographics and other creative awareness technique will reach a wider audience. Through critical analysis of research presented by physicians such as Dr. Casey, I think that public health officials and practitioners can use their platforms to inform people of the possible risks and poor health outcomes associated with marijuana use during pregnancy.

  7. I agree completely with this article that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their doctor before using any form of marijuana product. It is important to note that doctors often recommend to women that are pregnant not to eat or drink certain products, which is why we should seriously how ingesting or smoking a product with a high content of chemicals such as CBD and THC may affect mothers and infants. I understand some medications with harsh chemicals are used during labor and delivery to relieve the mother of pain, but this is usually in lower doses and a onetime use. Regarding marijuana products, there needs to be more investigation on the long term affects on the infants which is why I agree with Dr. Carey and other providers from the Washington State Department of Health that do not condone this behavior. Similarly to Mae, I’ve heard rumors that using marijuana products such as lotions and balms may be “safe” for pregnant women so it is critical to spread this message. This is a really interesting topic that I haven’t heard many other articles discuss since the legalization of cannabis in Washington State a few years ago. The infographic presented in this article is informative and easy to read. I’m curious where this information is showcase. This would be useful to put in OBGYN and primary care offices.

  8. While cannabis is openly available in numerous areas around Washington, I agree that expecting mothers should not use throughout the duration of their pregnancy. The association between the pregnancy and cannabis use is not yet established, however numerous studies on cannabis have revealed some of the health impacts associated with use. Some of the risks associated with use on the individual include memory loss, increased paranoia or anxiety, decrease in motor response, and poor decision making. It is clear that cannabis is a very dangerous drug and has ability to impact us in numerous ways. In addition to some of the negative consequences listed in this blog, it’s also important that children tend to pick up behaviors from those in their environment. Having a parent that uses cannabis regularly can be dangerous to a developing child.

    In order to prevent breastfeeding mothers/expecting mothers from using cannabis we must increase the perceived risks of cannabis use and the potential detrimental effects it can have on their child. Public Health professionals should provide different contact and affordable resources for mother’s that need help in managing their pregnancy.

  9. I am glad that King County is starting the conversation about safe marijuana use! Since weed is legal now in Washington, it is important that the public understands the risks and benefits of using this drug. As Dr. Carey stated, there is not a lot of research yet around recreational use, however, just because it is legal does not necessarily deem it safe. Like alcohol, there are risks for adverse health outcomes when using in certain situations or amounts, like when pregnant and breastfeeding. There has been a lot of speculation around what is considered “safe” marijuana use, thus misinformation can spread, causing some individuals to unknowingly hurt themselves or others. For whatever your reasoning is for using cannabis products while pregnant or breastfeeding is not worth the risk of endangering your child’s future or your own until more research is conducted. From what we know now, THC can cause mental impairments through the “high” you receive which can be transferred to the child. Marijuana may be okay in certain amounts and at certain stages of life, but as of now, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid using.
    Since federal regulations have banned the use of recreation marijuana, research on the subject is very limited. If there is not a lot of significant evidence regarding the use of THC yet, then it seems like the laws are beyond the realm of science. It’s political. Even if you are against the use of marijuana, making it legal can give access to much needed research about the subject so that the public, health care professionals, and politicians can understand the real benefits and harms, allowing for appropriate regulations.

  10. Even though cannabis use is legal in Washington, it is important that cannabis use is regulated, and the public is educated about the potential harms of the drug. A misconception in society that is that legal equals safe, but this is not always the case. In general, science tells us that cannabis use causes impairment in judgement and cognition. Being in a state of “high” from the drug can alter a mother’s ability to protect her child and can also lead her to participating in more risky behaviors that could negatively affect her and her baby. While I do understand that cannabis is also widely used as a form of pain relief and some believe that it can be effective in reducing pregnancy stress and discomfort, I agree that education surround this topic is important.

    I agree that cannabis use while pregnant and breastfeeding is dangerous and can pose potential harm to both the mother and the fetus. It is important to think about the precautionary principle when talking about potential harm and harm reduction. In the case of cannabis use during pregnancy, it is important to look at it as harmful until proven safe. There are safer ways to manage the pain and discomfort of the pregnancy, and those methods should be used before using cannabis.

  11. With the rise in the number of states beginning to legalize recreational marijuana and the increasing popularity of medical marijuana, I think it is crucial that we begin to put more of an emphasis on the importance of conducting research on the effects of using marijuana. Due to the limited research available on the topic, there is still much confusion and concerns circulating about the benefits vs. harms of the substance and users are often not properly equipped with the current knowledge and debate surrounding the topic to be able to make the safest decisions when it comes to using marijuana. For instance, using marijuana as a form of self-medication is becoming more popular as people hear stories in the news of marijuana helping to relieve stress, anxiety, body pains and aches, etc. However, what many don’t realize is that these self-medicating “success” stories are very situational and may not have the same effects on everyone. This self-medication trend poses a particular risk for women who are pregnant as they might be drawn and influenced to using marijuana to ail many of the painful and uncomfortable symptoms that result from pregnancy without being aware of the risks that this action may have on the health outcomes of the baby. Thus, it is imperative that we do a better job to inform the public, especially women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, about the current knowledge and research available so that they are aware of the potential harms that marijuana usage can cause to their health and their baby’s health and be safe and knowledgeable consumers of what they are putting into their body.

  12. Given the unpredictable consequences medications can potentially have during pregnancy, this topic is extremely important to explore and marijuana should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Despite gaps in research concerning marijuana use, it is already known that chemicals from it can transfer to infants through breastmilk. These chemicals can delay development and cause harm to children in the long term, therefore it is wise to avoid marijuana even though adverse effects may not be observed right away. The less sensitive people are toward marijuana in Seattle, the more likely they are to experiment with it in different states, including pregnancy. As long as there are alternative treatments that yield the same benefits and none of the risks that marijuana does, there is no reason for pregnant or breastfeeding women to consume marijuana since it can be directly passed on to their fetuses and eventually infants/toddlers. Based on the information presented by Dr. Carey, it is important to urge mothers to err on the side of caution before research is more conclusive.

  13. I think this is an extremely important topic, given the increased acceptance and availability of marijuana in Seattle today. Given the potential adverse health effects, mothers should avoid using marijuana at the times it can transfer to their children. Despite gaps in research around the effects of marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it seems advisable to err on the side of caution just in case it is damaging in ways we have yet to recognize. As Dr. Carey explained, there are also safer alternatives to marijuana that benefit the mother while keeping the children safe. Although marijuana is legal and perceived as safe, alcohol and tobacco are also legal and are not safe, especially during pregnancy. I would highly recommend any women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding should abstain from using marijuana, and community members should be active in informing loved ones about potential risks about consuming marijuana in these situations when they apply.

  14. I agree with the majority of this article, I believe it is always necessary to use a “precautionary approach” when discussing pregnancy and chemicals that could harm your baby, especially the chemicals in a stigmatized substance. I also liked the Washington Department of Health’s Infographic, point number five, that “natural doesn’t mean safe”. I think it is important for citizens to realize that cannabis is created from chemicals that have not had much research conducted on them and we still don’t know all the effects of cannabis on the human body. However, I am surprised such strong claims were made when there are so many mixed reviews on if cannabis is harmful or beneficial. There needs to be more research done on the effects of cannabis in pregnant woman, which will be difficult with the lack of federal funding for researching cannabis.
    As a student in Public Health at the University of Washington, we are constantly discussing the aspects of community health and how the environment you live in can drastically impact your health later in life. Because cannabis is legal in Washington, there has been a large increase in the number of dispensaries opening in the area. I wonder how this impacts a woman’s decision to use cannabis while pregnant or if there would be an increase in the number of women who decide to use. I think infographics, like the one the CDC or Washington Department of Health created, should be placed inside cannabis stores to at least caution pregnant mothers who may not know the harmful effects it has on their growing baby. However, before this occurs, I believe more research needs to be conducted to determine the exact negative health outcomes for both the parent and their child.

  15. I found this topic very interesting due to the quickly changing marijuana laws throughout the United States. It is a hot topic in today’s society. With the popularity of marijuana increasing at a such a rapid rate, it seems as though researchers haven’t had enough time to fully weigh the positive and negative health outcomes of the drug during pregnancy and relay that information to the general public. I have yet to see any ads regarding the negative health outcomes of marijuana use before I viewed this post.

    I agree with Dr. Carey, as well as Brittany when they talked about how just because it is legal in some states, that does not make it healthy or the “right” choice for everyone during their pregnancy. I think there is still not enough research on the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy and breast feeding for moms to make accurate decisions about the harms of the drug. The assumption that what is natural is best is a big movement in the health industry these days, but people need to make more informed decisions about what they are putting in their body regardless of whether or not it is labeled “natural” or “organic”. In order to make more informed decisions, this population needs accurate and concise messaging from public health organizations.

    In my opinion, the health promotion ad that The Washington State Department of Health put up does a great job at informing new mothers, and those thinking about becoming new mothers about the effects marijuana has on your body, as well as your child’s body. I liked how they also included information about situations where marijuana is just kept in the home, or on clothes and how that too could potentially have harmful side effects for children. I also liked how they included resources to contact your primary care provider to access alternative approaches to combatting negative aspects to pregnancy.

    Overall, I believe that marijuana use should be limited, if not stopped while pregnant or breastfeeding due to the harmful effects presented in the public health messaging.

  16. After reading more on this topic, I think it is important to emphasize that there are much safer ways to manage pregnancy discomforts than using marijuana. Many people believe that because marijuana is natural, it is not harmful and because it may help with morning sickness, appetites, etc., people justify using marijuana while pregnant. However, substance abuse during pregnancy is a much known public health problem as babies can be born with adverse child effects and also neonatal abstinence syndrome. Although cannabis use while pregnant is a sensitive topic, it is a topic that needs to be discussed. Being “high” can alter an individuals decision making, and this altered judgement could affect their ability to protect their babies. Additional evidence states that using cannabis during pregnancy can harm fetal brain development and negatively affect kids later in life, including problems with their attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior. The effects of cannabis use while pregnant must be shared, and research should continue to further identify any negative health effects. A baby’s life should not be at risk due to a decision or action a mother is taking.

  17. Substance use during pregnancy is a well known and sensitive public health problem. It is important to acknowledge the health effects and harms marijuana may have on a child, much like any other drug. Substance use during pregnancy may lead to stillbirths, premature births, mental problems, and many more adverse health effects. Additionally, babies can be born with NAS (neonatal abstinence syndrome) in which they go through withdrawals.
    Marijuana is a sensitive topic as many people are under the impression that because it is natural, it is safe, or because it helps relieve certain pregnancy symptoms, that it does not hurt to use it. However, there are much safer ways to manage pregnancy symptoms and natural does not necessarily mean safe. Additionally, the “high” individuals get from using cannabis, can alter decision making that ultimately can place a baby at risk. For people who are pregnant, this altered judgement could affect their ability to protect their babies. There is also evidence that using cannabis during pregnancy can harm fetal brain development and negatively affect kids later in life, including problems with their attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior. Marijuana use during pregnancy should be just as much of a concern as other substance use while pregnant (drinking, opioid use, etc.). This sensitive topic is a topic that must be discussed and awareness must be spread about the potential health harms.

  18. This is an urgent topic to address, especially with the legalization of cannabis in many states including Washington and the growing perception that it is socially acceptable and safe to use. Cannabis use while pregnant is a topic entangled with many different opinions that are circulating about and causing discrepancy regarding what is accurate and substantial factual evidence and what is considered to be so-called “fake news”. People have a lot of bias regarding cannabis use and may be oblivious regarding all of the research that has been conducted thus far and the advice from medical professionals. I was very bothered by the evidence that using cannabis during pregnancy can harm fetal development and negatively affect children later on in their life, whether that is attention deficits, memory problems or behavioral problems. Learning that cannabis cannot only affect the brain chemistry of the mother who is using the drug, but it can also negatively affect the child’s brain chemistry makes me livid that people are defending using cannabis while pregnant. Substance use such as alcohol, cigarettes, and cannabis while pregnant should always be advised against and there should be more informational outlets and education on the risk of using cannabis while pregnant. When something is regarded as “legal” by a state it does not always transcend into the definition of “okay for your body” or “safe for your health”. I wish there was more funding going into research regarding cannabis use so that people could truly see the effect that it has on health and the effects it has on pregnancy and the brain chemistry of both the mother and the baby. The lack of research and lack of funding for more research endeavors on cannabis is due to the fact that cannabis is federally illegal and that is not going to change any time soon. I urge for more attention to be called towards researching this topic so that factual, concise, and health-informing information can be distributed effectively to the people who need to learn about the devastating effects of using cannabis while pregnant. There must be a collaborative and cohesive plan to educate people on the dangerous effects of using cannabis while pregnant and should include night classes, advertisements, and educational pamphlets and flyers that should be handed out by medical professionals. What people do not know can really have a harmful impact on their lives and their health, and it is crucial for mothers and potential mothers to know the risks that are associated with cannabis use and what that could potentially mean for their baby and their development. Research is vital to education and professionals in public health should call to action the vast impact that conducting research on using cannabis while pregnant would have on decreasing the amount of mothers who use while pregnant and the amount of mothers and potential mothers who understand the risks that are associated with cannabis use while pregnant.

  19. This was a great and relevant article to read given that Washington State has legalized marijuana. I never would have thought of cannabis use during pregnancy/breastfeeding as a potential risk factor from legalizing marijuana. As Dr. Carey pointed out, I think some people are under the assumption that just because we have a law allowing the use and sale of this substance that suddenly it is safe for anyone to use, no matter for recreational or medical purposes. At the end of the day, it is a drug that research still has not firmly concluded on its safety and health consequences for the general public, but it is now known that it is not safe nor recommended for this during and after pregnancy period. So, I am glad that this paper is following up on the risks of marijuana, especially on vulnerable populations like pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, even after its legalization, because, clearly, there is room for misinformation to spread. Hence, constant awareness, through research and health professionals encouraging discussion with their patients about this, can hopefully evade a further public health problem where we are facing a crisis in the future dealing with treating children/adults who have been affected due to their mothers using cannabis. Lastly, I think this article could have added narratives from (expecting) mothers who choose this option and physicians in order to understand their perspectives and how we can increase accurate knowledge about the negative health and social impacts for the mothers and their children.

  20. With the increasing popularity of marijuana use to manage discomfort it is extremely important to look at all possible negative effects especially related to pregnancy and infants. In Seattle, the idea of marijuana use for medical reasons is becoming more and more familiar and for that reason people may be less likely to question the negative effects it could have. This familiarity may make pregnant women quick to adopt this technique of pain management but it is necessary to understand the risks. This piece does a great job of bringing to light the real, already known issues that can occur while accepting that more research needs to be done. The CDC mentions that 1 in 20 women in the U.S. have used marijuana while pregnant. The main takeaway from this is there needs to be a greater emphasis on the risks and while pregnant women or mothers may feel like there are benefits, there are alternatives for dealing with this discomfort that are known to be safe. Overall the risk of using marijuana is just not worth it, and there should be more information presented about it in shops where people are purchasing marijuana.

  21. Cannabis use during pregnancy has a long history. However, with the increase in usage and normalization from the legalization of marijuana, this topic should be revisited. With known negative health impacts for offspring, it is crucial that women know of the potential risks associated with cannabis use during pregnancy. One of the most efficient ways to do this would be to require this information to be shared with pregnant women during their first doctors visit. This would promote awareness of this health hazard, especially for those that are not initially aware of the potential negative health impacts. However, this would not be enough, as not all pregnant women see a doctor on a regular basis. Information regarding the harmful effects of cannabis during pregnancy should also be shared in schools, parental classes/groups, and anywhere where cannabis is sold. Spreading awareness of this information is key, as many individuals just do not understand the harmful impact, and engage in this dangerous behavior because they do not know the effects it can have on their baby. The infographic included in this article would be a great source to share with pregnant women. There is great information about the potential negative health impacts for babies, and it presents this information in a clear and concise manner. In the meantime, additional research should be conducted in order to discern the direct health implications from cannabis use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Knowledge on this topic is crucial, and provides a more stable argument surrounding why women should avoid cannabis use during pregnancy. With limited research about cannabis use while breastfeeding, mothers may not feel as though engaging in this behavior is harmful for their baby. However, when it comes to the health and safety of children, all precautions should be taken in order to ensure their wellbeing.

  22. It is alarming that many people assume that a product being legal deems it safe, as it has been proven time and time again that this is not necessarily the case. Although I agree that the Department of Social and Health Services should be involved in some way, it may create stigma towards the user. This, in turn, could cause the mother, who is already going through a stressful time, to be fearful that her child will be taken away. I am afraid that mentioning this may only prevent the mother from reaching out and accessing services. However, I agree that it is important for them to understand the risks.
    Yet, creating a public health campaign for the community about this issue is not an easy task. Since the population is so spilt on the legality, let alone the effects, it is difficult to convince everyone of the dangers associated with the drug. Dr. Carey does a great job explaining the facts without relying on emotion. Since it is difficult to know the effects of THC in children, especially due to the lack of research on pregnant women for ethical reasons, this article is a good way to start a conversation about the risks of marijuana.

  23. With Washington state being one of the leading states to legalize marijuana use for recreation, your research topic has a lot of relevance in todays society. Many stakeholders may have different opinions on the issue of whether its okay to use marijuana during pregnancy or not, but the truth of the matter from a general observation, just as dangerous tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy is not ethical, I don’t believe parents should use other drugs whilst pregnant. People may argue that its their body and they have the freedom to do whatever they please, but have to keep in mind that the tiny human being inside the mother can not advocate for themselves and so laws need to be mandated in such instances. I also do agree with Dr. Carey that more research needs to be done to see how using marijuana during pregnancy can impact a child’s longterm. However we understand that the common side affects of getting intoxicated from the use of marijuana as an adult might occur to the child, such as the damage to brain cells, which can lead to attention deficits or increased hunger which can lead to early childhood obesity. Health promotions need to be continually spread across the country, as educated pregnant woman to insure the keep their babies safe is vital.

    In the post, you also talk about if a healthcare provider senses child neglect because of a parents drug use then they would call the department of social services to make a report. I understand the reasoning behind this, as we don’t want no child to be harmed, but at the same time I believe that the child and parent shouldn’t be separated from a instance like this. Every cultural upbringing raises their children differently and we need to respect this, and the better solution should be to provide families with support and guidance to better care for the kids, instead of causing more trauma to a child, as research shows the best caregiver for a child is their parents.

    Thank you for focusing on this topic, and sharing your insights with the public. I am curious to see what future research discovers about the use of marijuana during pregnancy and will the bad still outweigh the good?

  24. Now with the legalization of marijuana it is important to have these discussions about the implications of cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Today when walking around Seattle you see plenty of recreational marijuana shops an CBD oil and lotions being sold at drug stores like Bartells. With the normalization of marijuana, it’s important that potential and future mothers know the risk of these products. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is safe for everyone to use and to be used at all times. I knew there was a lack of research in the use of cannabis especially with pregnant mothers and young children but always thought that was due to ethical reasons and concerns, not federal regulation. There is a lot more research that needs to be done but so far, all evidence points to negative consequences. My biggest concern how cannabis can harm fetal brain development and affect kids later in life. Just because a parent can’t see the negative effects right away doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Like Dr. Carey, I agree that when it comes to pregnancy and children it is best to use the precautionary approach. These public health resources are especially crucial to put out there to mothers because of the claims advocates for cannabis make. I believe that all individuals should take the time to do more research about the harms of cannabis to a child, before believing everything they hear.

  25. I think this topic is very important to understand as marijuana is now legal in the state of Washington. The legality of marijuana makes for easier access and inquiry about the effects of this drug. Marijuana becoming normalized calls for more research on how cannabis can become a medical pain and discomfort reliever. Marijuana use during pregnancy is a fascinating topic that I have never heard of people partaking in. This article revealed the need for more research in this area, specifically the lingering effects that marijuana has on breastfeeding and long-term effects of marijuana exposure during utero. I think it is important to put the health of the baby and mother first when making a decision to use marijuana to alleviate pregnancy symptoms or simply just for recreational use.
    I do not think research of marijuana during pregnancy is of the upmost importance because there are others ways to mitigate pain relief and other discomforting symptoms while pregnant. This is especially a challenging concept when federal regulations and funding is compromised. However, I would be interested to see if research could prove any benefits of marijuana use while pregnant although I believe there would be concern and backlash in the process.

  26. I appreciated that this post brought up concerns that medical professionals are having with the combination of marijuana and pregnancy. I agree with the earlier two blog posts that discuss the idea that legalizing a substance can make individuals believe that it is safe. Even still, I don’t understand how people make the connection that even if it is legal that it should be consumed when it has the chance to harm a fetus. After all, other mind-altering substances like alcohol and cigarettes are legal drugs, but we still do not think that it is acceptable to consume them while pregnant. I do understand that there isn’t a huge body of research that unequivocally proves that cannabis is harmful, but it makes sense to take a precautionary approach as Dr. Joel Carey suggests until there is data to know one way or the other. On another note, I appreciated the tone of the infographic that educates new moms about marijuana use. It is very understanding and non-accusatory. It provides safer alternatives to managing discomfort so that new moms are made aware that using marijuana is not the only option instead of stigmatizing mothers who use it for that purpose. Another positive aspect of this infographic is that it not only educates, it also provides a helpline resource to give mothers additional support. It is so important to acknowledge that even if parents have the knowledge that their actions can be harmful to their children, it doesn’t mean that they have the tools or skills to align their behavior with what they may know is healthy.

  27. After reading this blog post, it is apparent to me that marijuana use during pregnancy should be highly discouraged by the community and health care professionals. As funding is limited, the potential health risks that marijuana use may cause to a developing fetus or breastfeeding infant are unknown, and therefore could be much more detrimental than we realize. This brings up many ethical implications as well that should be considered when allowing pregnant women to use marijuana. Since the developing fetus is impacted negatively, the ethical issue of beneficence should be considered in regulating marijuana use for pregnant women, because allowing them to use marijuana in replace of other medications may be doing more harm to the child than good. Since there has been evidence that cannabis use during pregnancy can negatively impact the child later in life, I think it is safe to say that more action should be taken to prevent marijuana use during pregnancy, and during breastfeeding as there has not been enough research yet to know the effects. With the legalization of marijuana, women are able to legally purchase and use it at any point, but the concerning evidence on marijuana use during pregnancy should point us towards education and more regulation on how to use it safely to prevent harmful health effects.

  28. This post is a very useful message for pregnant mothers to receive. Since more research needs to be done, I agree that the best option is to be cautious because the effects of marijuana on developing children are still largely unknown. As an alternative to marijuana, there are medicines that are proven to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. More research on the health impacts of marijuana must be done, and until then mothers must exercise caution and remember that “natural” does not mean safe. Studies must continue to be completed on this data and in order to gather more information on the effects of marijuana.
    It was helpful to see the infographic attached that provided a quick glance at some facts. This blog post did a satisfactory job explaining what is known about marijuana’s effects on pregnant woman. An informative message was sent, with the aim being to educate the public, specifically women who may become pregnant, on the potential impacts of marijuana during pregnancy.
    One area this blog post could have expanded on was a call to action. Alerting the public that marijuana research will further our knowledge of health impacts, therefore leading to healthier, safer, and more knowledgeable lives for Americans. Increased marijuana research is needed to inform residents of marijuana’s long term health effects.

  29. As a public health student at the University of Washington, I found this piece to be very interesting, as we have been introduced to the world of public health research and it’s impacts. From the messages you shared from Dr. Carey, I agree that there is a need and importance for further research to be done on this rising public health issue. I think the attention Dr. Carey calls to the importance of research in promoting public health throughout the article when it comes to this particular issue, can be extended to all public health issues as well. With information – both correct and incorrect – so widely available to people today with the internet and social media, it is very challenging for any person to determine what is true and what is not. I think having hard evidence found through research can be one of the most effective ways to convince someone of a position. With new and rising topics like cannabis use which are becoming increasingly controversial, I think research is particularly important. I am glad to see that this is an issue that will be prioritized by King County Health and Human Services. I also appreciate the infographic and all the credible resources you shared at the end of the article directing readers to places they could find further information on the topic; it contributes to the dissemination of research findings to “inform, educate, and empower” the public, which I feel is one of the most important core functions of public health identified by the CDC. Research is important, but only if the findings reach the public so that individuals can make their own health decisions and policymakers can shape policies around the most current research.

  30. I think that this topic is very important to address, especially due to the potential implications with Washington’s and other states’ recent legalization of recreational marijuana. I agree with Dr. Carey’s recommendation to use precaution when addressing this issue because research is so limited both on marijuana use’s effects on babies, as well as marijuana use’s effects on pregnant mothers. I think Mae’s comment above on how just because something is legal does not necessarily mean that it is safe for use, especially in regards to pregnant women and their babies, is very important and a logical way to view this issue. While it is a very difficult topic to study from an ethical stand-point, I think there should definitely be more efforts to gather information in the safest way possible on the subject in order to properly educate the public and those at risk for these potentially detrimental behaviors. Additionally, there is plenty of room for more research on marijuana and THC products as well as pregnant women separate from each other; both of which might give insight on this issue by shedding light on its parts.

    Overall the most important take away from this post is to exercise precaution around things that are not well researched. This article reminds me slightly of the use of thalidomide as a mild sleeping pill for pregnant women that eventually resulted in increased instances of children born with malformed limbs because in that case too, the side effects were not well documented or researched in pregnant women before it was approved for use by them. I believe that until proper assessment has been completed, it would be wise to follow Dr. Carey’s recommendation is exercising precaution and avoiding use when pregnant or breastfeeding.

  31. When a woman is pregnant there are so many different risks and potential hazards to be aware of. This is especially concerning with emerging legal drugs such as marijuana and all of the different components it contains. Many people are now using CBD, the non-high inducing element of hemp, as their anxiety medication instead of taking potentially addictive substances like Xanax. Pregnant women could easily see this as a viable alternative, and due to the lack of research and public or scientific knowledge of the effects on children, potentially cause developmental issues. It is imperative to enhance the research into these products and their effects on development. Until then public health announcements like this to raise awareness are crucial in every state, not just those where THC is legal because of the possible impacts that CBD could have as well.

  32. I have been interested in this topic for quite some time now. The use of any drug or any type of alcohol is almost always “forbidden” during pregnancy, but it seems to me that often times marijuana gets left out of the discussion because it isn’t considered a hard drug. Unlike alcohol the effects of marijuana during pregnancy is an understudied phenomenon most likely because of ethical concerns but this doesn’t mean that it should be overlooked and deemed safe. The effects of marijuana can include delayed response time, negative effects on memory, altered judgment, and impacts on problem-solving skills. Most of these negative impacts are directly linked to brain development and function, it would not be hard to imagine would negatively impact fetal development. This is a topic that deserves more funding in order to be studied so that we can gain a clearer understanding, while this may be hard due to federal regulations and laws it should ultimately become a more known topic.

  33. It is interesting to me that simply because forms of cannabis are legal in Washington state now, people think that it is not harmful. There is not an association between legality and safety, as is seen with alcohol being legal and the detrimental effects of fetal alcohol syndrome among other pregnancy, birth, and life of the child complications. What is more concerning regarding cannabis is the fact that we don’t know exclusively the impacts of using while pregnant or breastfeeding. Although, even preliminary findings that the chemicals in cannabis may harm fetal development and may be passed through breast milk should be a consideration to women who are considering using it. In today’s society, the use of cannabis has become less stigmatized and increasingly legalized in many states. It’s no secret that women use cannabis, and they should be able to make this decision for themselves. What needs to happen is the increase in federal funding on the research of such effects, both positive and negative. Without this research, women will still continue to use cannabis, but will be doing so blindly and potentially harming their children as an effect. With an increase in funding to research the topic, it will not necessarily increase rates of cannabis use, but may increase the precautions used and health of children born to women who choose (or did not choose) to use cannabis products while pregnant or breastfeeding.

  34. I’m happy to see King County has used the state’s legalization of marijuana as an opportunity to call for more education and research on its health effects. As the use of cannabis products becomes more normalized, we need to have a better understanding of potential negative impacts of cannabis use to ensure we can make informed decisions about our health. For pregnant and breastfeeding women specifically, it is concerning to see evidence of negative immediate and long-term health outcomes for children. Since marijuana is still federally criminalized and there are ethical concerns regarding research of pregnant women, it will take time to better understand the risks associated with cannabis use. While I support Dr. Carey’s recommendation to use caution and encourage continued public education as we learn more about health impacts, I am concerned about potential effects of negative stigma on parents. I am hopeful future research and education will be nonjudgmental and supportive of parents while equipping them with this vital information to make the best choices for themselves and their families.

  35. Echoing the other comments here, I’m glad people are having this discussion! Frankly, there hasn’t been enough talk about the effects of cannabis in a variety of settings, especially for pregnancy. I would assume that many people had considered not smoking if they were to become pregnant, but there’s so much less discussion on edibles and lotion type products.

    As more states are legalizing these products, research needs to become a priority. Of course, we can ask people to take precautions, but it will be much easier to protect mothers and children when we know more concretely what the possible risks are. Research will also be important moving forward as we decide to make other cannabis related policies, as we have done with alcohol. We want to make sure people are safe and healthy, and that starts with deepening our understanding of the things we’re putting in our bodies!

  36. This is a very interesting topic, due to the fact that it is rarely talked about. Many people talk more about other substances like alcohol and smoking cigarettes and their effects during pregnancy. While purchasing these substances there are signs warning people about the dangers, if consumption occurs during pregnancy. For marijuana in my opinion there is a lot less signs warning people about the dangers. I agree with Dr. Joel Carey when he says that people think it’s safe due to the fact that it is legal. I believe the lack in research contributes to the reason why people think it is safe. Many people want hard evidence to prove something is harmful or safe before actually following the recommendations. I believe we need to continue marijuana research, to find the evidence needed to definitely know the harmful effects. I think having the “5 Things to Know about marijuana use while pregnant or breastfeeding” is a great way to start informing people about the possible harmful effects of marijuana use during pregnancy. This is a great way to start spreading awareness about the topic. When people start getting informed, we can help prevent future complications.

  37. I think it is extremely crucial to understand the risks of Cannabis use, especially when pregnant or breastfeeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 20 women use cannabis/marijuana during pregnancy in the United States1. Effects of marijuana are still being studied every day, especially on the long-term health effects, especially during pregnancy. Current studies show that cannabis/marijuana may cause health issues in a fetus and possible development problems in babies1. One should always err on the side of caution during pregnancy and marijuana/cannabis use during this sensitive time should be discouraged vehemently. Moreover, since THC from cannabis products are stored in fat tissues and can be spread through breast milk so it should be avoided then too1.

    Most importantly, I think that in addition to discouraging marijuana and cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it should also be advertised clearly and campaigns should be spread to actively target pregnant and breastfeeding women on the harms and potential harms of this drug’s usage during these times. I think it is especially important for public health not only because cannabis usage is so prevalent during pregnancy and affects our future generation. but also because many people think it is not harmful solely because it is a legal substance in some states as mentioned in this article.

    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Marijuana Facthseets: Marijuan Use and Pregnancy. Accessed on February 22, 2019 from

  38. The legality and rise in popularity of recreational marijuana use has prompted very important debates and discussions regarding it’s health impacts, both positive and negative. There have been too few studies on the various effects of marijuana, especially long term effects, and we know very little about it’s short term and long term effects on individuals. Also, the fact that there are multiple strains, forms, and chemical compounds within the same plant that all have different effects on the body. It stands to reason that components of marijuana will cumulate in breast milk since that is the case with many other compounds. However, no studies have been done showing how this affects breastfeeding infants. This could be due to the lack of national legalization of marijuana and thus lack of funding for research studies. The long standing social taboo against marijuana use would also make it challenging to find mothers that used during pregnancy to participate in longitudinal, prospective cohort studies. It’s also interesting to consider why some drugs are considered “safe” to use during pregnancy and some aren’t. How do doctors, researchers, and professionals define “safe” regarding use during pregnancy?

  39. While reading the article “Cannabis use while pregnant and breastfeeding” I was really surprised to see there are people using cannabis to manage the discomfort associated with pregnancy. The article provides extensive logical explanation about the harmfulness of cannabis during pregnancy, the research has been done about the harm/benefit of cannabis and the limitation and the gap existing in knowing if cannabis is harmful or not. As a community, and as a country and as a simple member of society we all have responsibilities in making sure we do everything in our power to have healthy and thriving community. and to help one another to be aware of the choice we make. Its within our interest to have an informed community about a new idea and a new chose available to them by the legal system. The legalization of marijuana across the country and Washington state is an issue that must be approached with all seriousness. Lack of extensive research and evidenced based result about the harmfulness as well as benefit of cannabis provides a great opportunity to venture capitalists, business driven motives, and multi-billion-dollar companies to take advantage of the consumers in different category to profit off. we must keep in mind that legalization does not negate the harm associated with a product, specially to pregnant women and breastfeeding mom. It is state obligation to create educational programs, and other means of informing the public about what marijuana use not only to pregnant women but to everyone. I think public health field both academia and government affiliated public health agencies have obligation to do understand the magnitude of the challenge facing the public as marijuana become legalized and easily accessible to people. government affiliated public health agencies must deliver the existing data about harm/ benefit of marijuana. Public health academia must make sure to continue research to find new data and evidence about use of marijuana.

  40. Brittany, I agree this is a necessary topic to bring to the table. With Washington being one of the first states legalizing recreational marijuana use, it is crucial that Public Health departments bring attention to the risks of cannabis use in general. Despite a lack of research on the effects of cannabis use during pregnancy, current knowledge proves it can negatively impact the child. Dr. Carey did an excellent job holistically evaluating the risks of cannabis use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Not only does cannabis use during pregnancy biologically harm the child’s brain development, but parenting under the impairment of marijuana can be risky for the child’s wellbeing. I am glad to see that more research is underway, and King County is using resources to educate the public on the risks of cannabis. Public discussion and education is key to improving the health of the community. Help improve our community health by educating your friends and family!

  41. I agree that more research on this subject would provide us with a more solid understanding of cannabis’ effect on pregnancy and breastfeeding. Clinical trials are unethical in this case, so the lack of information sparked misconceptions in the media. However, from observational studies it is clear that cannabis use should be avoided. It is crucial that pregnant women are aware of the risks so they can make an informed decision. The graphic does an excellent job at conveying the information and educating the public on this issue. Research and discourse on the topic should continue with an openminded perspective when we think about all the possible risks and benefits to cannabis in its different forms. Because unlike alcohol and tobacco, there are some proven medical benefits to it, like the ability of CBD (a non-psychoactive chemical in the plant) to treat epilepsy.

  42. I also agree with this post, there isn’t enough information or research available to say whether using cannabis products while pregnant or breastfeeding are safe or not. Due to federal regulations, it is very difficult for any research to be done on the effects of cannabis in general, let alone during pregnancy. I think local and state health authorities should provide more easily accessible information about the possible risks and the lack of research. Especially since the use of cannabis products is legal in Washington State. Also, having some or all of the resources listed in this post, available at all clinics and hospitals, and discussed with women on a more frequent basis might help to reduce potential use and risk.

  43. It is surprising to me that people believe marijuana usage during pregnancy won’t produce harmful effects. Alcohol and cigarettes are harmful and I think people should think the same for marijuana. Even though there has not been extensive research on the effects people should be careful. To decrease the use of marijuana use during pregnancy, educational tools should be provided by OBGYNs. These can educate people about the potential harms which can happen. Additionally, more knowledge about how the Department of Social and Health Services can take a child from their parent because of drug use during pregnancy should be provided. These children can go into foster care which is harmful for both the child and parent. This is a policy that is used in Washington state and healthcare providers can report these incidences if they think the child is in a harmful situation. More knowledge about both of these topics could decrease the number of mothers using during pregnancy.

  44. I did not know how little is really known about the effects of cannabis on the baby and mother during pregnancy until I read this post. I think it is important that federal regulations become less strict because in recent years more states have legalized marijuana. I believe that the strict federal regulations on research are a big reason for why the drug is so controversial. Tobacco research is extensive and the general public knows about its harmful effects, and I believe that if more cannabis research existed, it would be less of a controversial issue.

    I also think it is really interesting that so many people are against cannabis even though many health affects are not known. While there are definitely some negative affects on people, cannabis is also a really important drug used for medical purposes for a variety of conditions. Along with physical benefits, it also can help with mental health, so it is important to understand more about it to be able to weigh its benefits and harms.

  45. I think there is an interesting intersection between the use of cannabis products during pregnancy and mandatory reporting requirements for healthcare providers. If pregnant women are dependent on marijuana to manage various health problems, they should be offered treatment and other support before they are reported to DHSH. I believe that the potential social consequences and other negative outcomes that could result from mandatory reporting are equally as important as the potential for reducing harm for the fetus/infant.
    I appreciate the emphasis placed in this article about providing mothers with the information about potential harms from using marijuana during pregnancy. I think a non-punitive approach that is focused on education and increasing knowledge about alternative options would be more effective than reporting women. Additionally, I think because marijuana is legal in Washington, many people are not aware of the potential negative health outcomes that can occur during pregnancy. Just as the info sheet mentions, “natural” does not mean safe. I appreciate that King County’s Health and Human Services priorities around marijuana legalization include informing pregnant and breastfeeding women about potential risks.

  46. This is a very interesting topic as the legal adaption of marijuana/cannabis occurred within the last decade and still not federally legalized in all states. Considering the negative health consequences for all involved parties (mother, infant, family, etc.), the legalization of all substances does not mean it is safe as stated by Dr. Carey. His clarifying points on THC lasting in breast milk causes concerns as that can then potentially pass into the infant with unknown consequences. While marijuana has become legal, the substance is still under the category similar to alcohol and tobacco where minors are not allowed to legally purchase or consume which should be held to similar ideology involving THC being consumed through breastmilk. Being a public health student and concentrating on substance abuse amongst adolescents, this can become a burden in the future or lead to misuses at an earlier age amongst children.

  47. This is an interesting and important topic to talk about, because as far as public health promotion you really only hear about the negative effects of smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol while pregnant. I’m sure it doesn’t cross many peoples minds that marijuana could be equally as harmful while pregnant or feeding a child. While marijuana is proven much safer than cigarettes, smoke is still harmful to everyone and can provide a lot of harm to the mother and child. It is definitely difficult since there is limited research on the topic as was mentioned in the blog post, although the absence of studies and findings on the topic does not mean it’s safe. That is a very dangerous misconception I’m sure a lot of people have. While the effects on the child could very well be minimal, I agree with the writer when they say a precautionary approach is necessary. When you are lacking information on a topic, playing it safe is always better than being sorry when consequences happen. This is a refreshing and important blog post on a subject not often talked about. Very informative.

  48. Thank you for the interesting read! One of the things that stood out the most to me was the way the article addresses assumptions that are not true such as the idea that natural and/or legal means that it is safe. Many people do associate natural remedies as better for the body compared to prescription medications however we do see things that dispute that statement such as tobacco. With successful prevention programs in place to educate the public on the risks or tobacco, the same should be done for marijuana. Something I think that is powerful is the media. We see that movies can glorify things such as alcohol and these tend to push against some of our public health knowledge. Media has a great influence on children and adolescents and could contribute to that population trying marijuana at an age below the legal limit. Though I personally have not seen marijuana glorified in films, it is important to continue pushing prevention programs and to continue educating individuals on the risks as it relates to every day life, pregnancy, and development. Like tobacco, the developmental effects of marijuana exposure during pregnancy/breastfeeding/child development may not be seen immediately so we need successful programs that educate people and policies that support the findings researchers will continue to study.

  49. This topic is very interesting and I believe very relevant in Washington since it legal, within some regard. Dr. Joel Carey’s research is innovative and necessary as there is a lack of understanding around marijuana use and health impacts. As I volunteered at Swedish Medical Center, the hospital gave out a similar flyer to new mothers. Their handout also had a portion about marijuana impairing the judgement of the parent and mentioned it increased one’s risk of sleeping more deeply and possibly suffocating their infant.

    More research needs to be done about CBD products as well because many people believe they are extremely healthy and promote wellness with no side effects. The relationship between marijuana and breastfeeding/pregnancy is one that is unclear. The length of time THC/CBD reside in breastmilk is concerning, especially with public health promotes freezing breastmilk for future use. Overall, there are many questions that hopefully Dr. Carey’s study can answer. This is a pressing topic as more states begin to legalize marijuana and CBD products are trending.

  50. Maternal health is an important field, and one that the US needs to improve on. There is a need for more research in areas such as the one brought up in this article. As new behaviors arise in the public, research and the public health field, need to be able to understand the impacts the behaviors have on health. Constantly updating our knowledge allows us to be able to respond with an effective program or campaign. There needs to be more funding for research on the effects that alternative smoking has on the fetus during pregnancy. Other than marijuana, I am also curious about how electronic cigarettes (vape pens) effect pregnancy. Electronic cigarettes are thought of, by the public, a way to decrease nicotine dependence although they not approved by the FDA. This could potentially lead to pregnant mothers using electronic cigarettes to stop smoking without knowing that they are putting their baby at risk. I am also curious about the exposure to second-hand smoke, of both marijuana and electronic cigarettes, and what, if any, are the consequences of that during pregnancy.

  51. I think that it is imperative to talk about this topic as Seattleites adjust with the stigma and social norms on marijuana use. The lack of research on the negative impacts of cannabis use while pregnant or breastfeeding should be enough to caution pregnant women from using the substance. Even though retail and medical use is legal for cannabis, it does not exclude it from having harmful effects especially if used excessively. I also think that there is no need to use cannabis if there are safer alternatives that can be taken to deal with the pregnancy effects. I’m glad that articles like this are emerging along with the research about the negative effects and consequences of marijuana use during pregnancy. Educating and informing the public about its potential danger is a good start of a prevention process.

  52. while marijuana consumption is becoming more popular across the US and especially in Washington state, I think disseminating information about the possible negative effects of cannabis use for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers is necessary across the country. It is important to give the public all the information available, which includes the fact that not much research has been done on this topic too because marijuana is still federally illegal. As with other harmful substances such as alcohol, a small amount taken during pregnancy may have no lasting affects, but the potential for harm is still there, which is why its important for parents to have all the possible information and stay up to date. In the future, with more research being done, the information on the topic may change and say that certain types of cannabis consumption may be okay at certain points during pregnancy, but with the current information it is safest to avoid any form of cannabis consumption while pregnant or breastfeeding. As the post mentions, it is also important to smoke outside and away from children, whether its cannabis or tobacco, to avoid the harmful effects of second hand smoke. Like alcohol, cannabis is a legal substance (in Washington state) that can have harmful negative affects.

  53. I appreciate that King County’s Health and Human Services priorities around marijuana legalization include informing pregnant and breastfeeding women about potential risks. There are a lot of misconceptions about the safety of marijuana because it is legal and a “natural” product. The lack of knowledge in the general public about the risks of marijuana use is a public health problem that I am happy to see the Public Health Department taking action on.
    However, I would like to call out potential issues with mandatory reporting requirements for healthcare professionals. This policy has good intentions, to protect developing children and infants from harm related to their parents’ substance use, but I believe that mandatory reporting is not the most effective way to achieve these goals. This policy may increase distrust in the medical system and inflict further harm if reporting to DHSH results in removal of very young children from their mothers. I believe that there should be increased efforts in the education that King County Public Health is already doing to inform mothers that there are alternative ways to manage the discomforts of pregnancy. Additionally, there should be increased opportunities for mothers to enter treatment while pregnant or receive other support services. Especially in the case of marijuana, a punitive approach to ensuring women do not use this drug during pregnancy or breastfeeding seems cruel and unlikely to achieve the goals of preventing harm in the first place.

  54. Marijuana is a universally used substance and not the latest trend drug. The discrepancy in spite of its wide and longtime use, the stigma and taboo are still present—precisely because of its use and continued lack of evidence-based knowledge. The lack of funding for further research on marijuana use is a disservice to future generations of our society. Regardless of oncoming research findings can entail, advocates, law makers, legislators, and citizens, need to start researching (for those that haven’t already) or have more dialogue in order to arrive at a consensus for its medical and recreational use; public safety. The paradox of “you can use it, but it’s not legal” is also a disservice to our communities. The perceived susceptibilities and misconceptions of the adverse health effects marijuana use has while pregnant and/or breastfeeding, as well as having the proper and adequate knowledge to make informed decisions for health promotion needs to be in an inclusive manner. Funding is needed and the resources you list allows for a conversation to start.

    1. In general there is little research on the effects of marijuana usage. Pregnant women are so vulnerable to diseases as they are in a time of their life where their immune system is weakened. I really enjoyed that the article highlight the different ways that pregnant women can be negatively impacted by marijuana usage. One thing that stood out to me was the mention of the usage of marijuana to relieve pain. As a public health major I believe that that is not the only reason pregnant women would be using marijuana. Pregnancy is tough time, specially if you don’t have social or family support. I understand that marijuana usage can be harmful and detrimental to the babies development but we also have to make sure that women have the resources they need so that marijuana isn’t the only option to run away from feelings of depression and anxiety. I definitely believe that more money towards the research of the affects of marijuana is needed but we should also be asking the “but why” questions.

  55. Dr. Carey. I am interested in learning more about the effects of CBD as a topical cream/salve used for pain during pregnancy. While it is mentioned above, I don’t see any research or findings related to how the topical CBD can enter the blood stream and have a negative outcome to the fetus. Has there been research on CBD and a developing fetus? I believe we do a disservice to the public when we make blanket statements without knowledge. As someone with chronic pain, opioids have always been pushed as a treatment while I was told any cannabis products were not advised “because we don’t know enough” including topical CBD. Also, is there a reason why there are so many comments repeating the same feedback? Class assignment void of critical thinking?

    1. Hi Lucy,

      Thanks for your question. As you mentioned, there still isn’t much research on the effects of CBD on the developing fetus (or otherwise), so we can’t make a recommendation. We hope over time we will understand more and be able to provide more useful direction.


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