Cannabis, Pregnancy, and Parenting

By Justin Allec

Congratulations, you’re pregnant! I’m both happy and saddened to inform you that welcoming a new child into your home means your usual routines will no longer apply. Eight hours of sleep will be elusive, conversations will rotate around feeding and poop, and responsibility is your new mantra. Parenting is a doubt game, and the influence of cannabis can only increase the questions.

While research into cannabis and pregnancy haven’t been exhaustive, there is some consensus on safe practices for before, during, and after pregnancy. Research with a formerly controlled substance is always difficult, but the availability and popularity of cannabis means a growing body of evidence is pointing to some common-sense conclusions.

Many “expecting” books that detail pregnancy compare it to a marathon. As such, it’s something you can prepare your body for, and if you’re a regular cannabis user, this can mean beginning to abstain or reduce the quantity of your intake. The better health your body is in leading into pregnancy, the easier it will be overall. However, if you’re a regular user and you become pregnant, don’t panic either: there’s no evidence to suggest that cannabis use will be harmful to the baby at this early stage.

Once you know for certain you’re pregnant, or even if you suspect, it’s time to stop using cannabis. No amount is considered safe, regardless of the method of ingestion. Studies have linked cannabis use during pregnancy to low birth weights, the increased risk of stillbirth, and negative effects on the baby’s brain development that can lead to long-term learning and behavioral issues. There are some social media rumours that posit cannabis as a solution to morning sickness or insomnia, but there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. If cannabis was your primary method of self-care, I’m afraid you’re going to have to find other ways of finding your happy chemicals. If you find yourself slipping into using cannabis, then you need to have a serious conversation with your health provider and support network.

Cannabis’s role in your post-pregnancy life depends largely on whether you’re breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, then you will have to continue to abstain from cannabis. Because cannabis isn’t soluble in fat, it can’t be broken down before getting into breast milk, which means that up to 3% of the THC you’re consuming will be directly passed onto your baby, leading to lethargy, moodiness, poor sleeping habits, and other developmental issues in the little person. And cannabis likes hanging around in your system: it can appear as soon as 20 minutes after you’ve consumed, and last for up to six weeks, which means the claim of “pump and dump” after smoking is garbage. 

If you are formula-feeding, then it is fine to use cannabis again—with caution. Cannabis affects your mental health, so it shouldn’t be used to treat postpartum depression, despite the appeal. Both moms and dads should note that cannabis affects your situational awareness, overall mood, and it delays response times, which means you aren’t going to be able to parent the way your child deserves. This goes for simple things, like supervising them on the playground, but also sleeping arrangements and hunger cues. If you’re dealing with kids, abstaining is the best bet.

Parenting is a big job, and it’s nice that we have releases like cannabis available. A child changed your life, which means your life has to change. If your brain isn’t present, then as a parent you can’t be either.