Here’s an alarming fact – marijuana is the most commonly used drug by women who are pregnant. The fact that any drug is used during pregnancy is a major cause for concern, but marijuana use may be more accepted because it’s seen as less harmful than other drugs.
The argument for smoking marijuana while pregnant is that it helps with morning sickness in the first trimester. In the early stages of pregnancy, many women experience nausea that is so severe they’re not able to keep down food, which can cause malnutrition and weight loss. Advocates of marijuana say that it’s sometimes the only thing that will help. But the consequences of smoking marijuana while pregnant can have long lasting effects on the child that start at birth and can extend into adulthood.
The active chemical in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is what causes the psychological effects you feel. It travels to the brain to open up the receptors responsible for pleasure, which gives you the feeling of being relaxed and happy, or “high.”
When a pregnant woman ingests marijuana, that same chemical is not only sent to her brain, but it is also sent to the brain of her fetus, which is still developing. It can cause a risk of impaired development and birth defects. There is even a chance the baby could be born with anencephaly, a usually fatal condition where a child is born with only part of a brain or no brain at all. Babies exposed to marijuana in the womb are also at risk of having low birth weight or being born prematurely.
The problems that marijuana use can cause a baby continue on throughout the child’s life.
Effects of Marijuana on Babies
Newborns who were exposed to marijuana before birth can sometimes display the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome, which include tremors, poor eyesight, and inability to adapt to their environment.
Research has found that at six months old, babies who were exposed to marijuana while in the womb are at greater risk of developing asthma, chest infections, and other respiratory problems.
From 3-4 years of age, children of mothers who smoked marijuana while pregnant have inferior verbal, memory, reasoning, and motor skills than other kids their age. They tend to be impulsive and hyperactive when they play. These characteristics are seen in kids up to 10 years of age.
When they begin school, they often have problems with their schoolwork. There also has been research into the connection between children who were exposed to marijuana in the womb and childhood cancers.
Some effects of marijuana use while pregnant aren’t seen until the child is an adolescent. They may still struggle academically because of decreased cognitive function and inability to focus. They may even have a lower IQ than their peers.
A mother-to-be should think twice before exposing her unborn baby to a drug that can have damaging, irreversible effects that can last well into adulthood.
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