Maternal Health • Pregnancy • Breastfeeding • Cannabis and Parenting
Just like with tobacco and alcohol, using cannabis while you're pregnant or breastfeeding can affect your baby. Ingredients in cannabis, such as Tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), cross the placenta and into the baby's bloodstream during pregnancy – whether cannabis is smoked or ingested. THC has also been found in breast milk. Using cannabis during pregnancy can lead to health problems for babies and children.
Doctors and other health professionals in Canada recommend that women who use non-medical cannabis stop using cannabis during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Pregnant women experiencing morning sickness are advised to explore alternative treatments with their primary health care providers.
If you are expecting and can't or don't want to stop using cannabis entirely, then use as little cannabis as possible and use it less often. If you are trying to reduce or stop using cannabis recreationally while pregnant, talk to your health care provider about services in your community that can support you.
Note that there are short and long-term risks associated with using cannabis while pregnant, whether the cannabis is prescribed by a doctor or not.
Cannabis use during pregnancy can lead to:
Research shows that using cannabis during pregnancy can lead to health problems for babies and children. Although cannabis is a plant and is now legal, it is safest not to use cannabis during pregnancy.
Cannabis affects your baby's brain development throughout your entire pregnancy and after birth. The more cannabis that is consumed during pregnancy, the more your baby's developing brain is affected.
There is no known “safe" amount of cannabis use while pregnant. The safest approach is not to use cannabis.
Studies have indicated that the use of cannabis during pregnancy may be associated with increased risk for low birth weight and premature birth. Premature babies may experience short term and long-term health issues.
Maternal cannabis use has been linked to adverse effects on children's brain development, memory function, ability to pay attention, reasoning and problem-solving skills. It is also associated with more hyperactive behaviour in children.
All of the various ways that cannabis can be consumed (for example, smoked, vaped, eaten, through using lotions or oils) may affect your baby's development. Smoke going into your lungs takes oxygen away from your developing baby. Smoking cannabis increases carbon monoxide levels in the blood, which decreases the amount of oxygen your baby receives – just like with cigarettes. Also like cigarettes, second-hand smoke from cannabis is unsafe for your baby.
If you do choose to use cannabis while pregnant, reflect on how often and how much cannabis you consume. Try to use as little cannabis as possible, use it less often, and choose low-potency products, those with low concentrations of THC and Cannabidiol (CBD).
There are so many great health reasons for breastfeeding. Choosing to breastfeed is a wonderful, healthy choice that you can make for yourself and your baby. However, it is safest not to use cannabis while breastfeeding.
THC has been found in breast milk. Cannabis compounds are stored in body fat and can be passed to your baby through breast milk. These chemical compounds are slowly released over time (up to 30 days), which means that 'pumping and dumping' breast milk does not work the same way it does with alcohol.
There is no known safe amount of cannabis use while breastfeeding. The safest approach is not to use cannabis.
If you do choose to use cannabis while breastfeeding, reflect on how often and how much cannabis you consume:
Babies exposed to THC through breast milk may be drowsy, have reduced muscular tone and have poor suckling, which could impact breastfeeding success and the baby getting enough breast milk
Parenthood is a huge job. Our children need us (or another responsible caregiver) 24 hours per day, seven days per week. This can be challenging for any parent and may involve making changes to our lifestyles. Babies change our lives a lot and choices need to be made so that baby and the whole family are happy and healthy.
People use cannabis for a variety of reasons and you may decide to use cannabis while you are caring for your children. If so, here are few things to consider.
Using cannabis may affect your ability to take care of your baby or child:
If you use cannabis while you are caring for your children, having another adult there with you who is not using cannabis will help keep your child safe.
Avoid using cannabis in front of children. Children like to mimic their parents. When they see you do something, they want to do it too.
Cannabis can harm your child's health, so keeping cannabis products away from your child is important. Cannabis products like cookies, gummy bears, brownies, lollipops and shakes can look like candy or a treat to a child.
If you think your child accidentally ate or drank cannabis, seek medical help right away. You may need to call 9-1-1. Your child may have problems walking or sitting up and may get very sleepy or act confused. The signs and symptoms can vary. Watch for anxiety, sleepiness, difficulty breathing, drowsiness, a lack of co-ordination or slurred speech. It takes time for your child's body to digest cannabis so it may be a few hours before you notice any effects.
Be sure to store cannabis safely. Ideally, store cannabis products in child-resistant packaging and in a locked area. Make sure your child cannot see or reach the locked area. Remember that children are excellent climbers so putting cannabis up high on a shelf does not necessarily mean it's safe or out of reach! Little ones may see it as a fun challenge so it is important to make sure they cannot get to it.
Co-sleeping with your baby or infant while using cannabis is unsafe and should be avoided because you may be less alert due to the effects of cannabis. For example, a parent may be more likely to roll onto their baby and not wake up when they are under the influence of cannabis (as well as alcohol or other drugs).