There is a rising number of women who are using marijuana while they are pregnant – as of 2017, 4.2% of women were self-reporting their use during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And as states continue to legalize marijuana for medical and non-medical use, some are asking: Can you smoke weed safely during pregnancy?

“If you’re suffering from morning sickness – nausea that can actually happen at any time of day during pregnancy – it can be tempting to try just about anything to get rid of it,” said Adrienne Richardson, MD, an OB-GYN with HealthPartners Health Center for Women. “But the fact is, using any amount of marijuana can be bad for your baby. That’s true during pregnancy. And it’s true after your child is born, too.”

Dr. Richardson is also the medical director of our Healthy Beginnings program. The program supports moms and helps babies have the best possible start in life. Here’s how she answers patient questions about pot use during pregnancy:

What are the risks of using marijuana during pregnancy?

Dr. Richardson: There are not as many studies out there as I would like on the effects of smoking marijuana during pregnancy.

However, there are a few things we do know:

  • Some studies show that if you use marijuana in any form during pregnancy, your child could have trouble with learning, memory, attention and behavior later in life.
  • Smoking during pregnancy, whether it’s marijuana or tobacco, can cause premature birth.
  • Marijuana can be contaminated with other substances – mold, chemicals and other drugs have all been found in marijuana. After all, the FDA does not regulate it.

The bottom line is there are too many unknowns to consider it safe.

Common myths about marijuana use during pregnancy

Myth 1: It’s natural so it must be safe.

Being natural doesn’t necessarily mean that something is safe. Tobacco is natural, for example. Plus, marijuana is treated like many other crops – growers frequently use chemicals to protect their plants from pests and weeds.

Myth 2: The nausea relief is worth the risk.

Even in states where marijuana is legal, doctors don’t prescribe it during pregnancy. There are many natural ways to get relief from your morning sickness symptoms – some of which are outlined below – and your care provider can help you find the best method for you.

Myth 3: It’s safe to use marijuana once the baby is born.

In the same way that it’s not recommended to drink alcohol while breastfeeding, it’s not safe to use marijuana. The chemicals it contains can be passed to your baby through your breast milk. Plus, the intoxicating effects it has on you can make it harder to safely care for your child.

Secondhand marijuana smoke contains many of the same chemicals as secondhand tobacco smoke, making it similarly harmful for your baby. If you use edibles, there’s also the chance that your baby could find and eat them.

So how do you treat morning sickness?

Dr. Richardson: Nausea in pregnancy is usually temporary and gets better in the second trimester for most people. There are some natural remedies to try:

  • Ginger – Anything with ginger can help you feel better naturally. I tell my patients to give ginger ale, ginger tea and ginger candies a try.
  • Wristbands – Some people find that wearing a wristband that presses on a specific pressure point helps relieve nausea and motion sickness.
  • Medication – For some people, the nausea and vomiting can be more severe and they may need medication treatment. Over-the-counter options are vitamin B6 and doxylamine. And if there are issues with dehydration or severe nausea, there are many prescription medications your doctor or midwife can talk to you about.
  • The B.R.A.T. diet – Bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast have more mellow flavors and are easy to digest.

Don’t be shy about talking with your doctor or clinician about how you’re feeling. If you regularly use marijuana and want to quit, they can help you find support systems. And if you are thinking about getting pregnant, now is a good time to quit. Marijuana stays in your system for a month or sometimes longer.

If you’re looking for support in quitting marijuana or other substances before, during or after your pregnancy, contact your doctor or clinician and ask about the Healthy Beginnings program offered through HealthPartners and Park Nicollet.