The legal allowance of marijuana has allowed for more exposure and resultant usage, which may change social norms regarding its use. However, the effects on pregnancy and the fetus are not. In fact, the potential effects of marijuana on pregnancy are long-lasting. In 2015, the self-reported use was between 2-5%; however, this number climbs.
Both the medicinal and psychoactive properties of marijuana are attributed to canabinoids. These substances can equally be absorbed from the lungs or from the gastrointestinal tract if ingested. The canabinoids readily cross the brain barrier (hence the effect) but also cross into the placenta. Animal studies demonstrate that fetal exposure was approximately 10% of maternal concentrations. The same brain receptor that is turned-on, is also involved normal fetal brain development. This same development that governs: neurotransmitter signaling, migration of neuronal cells, maturation and survival. Although the structure of the developing fetal brain is not impaired, the potential risks to its function can be long-lasting. Concerns for altering brain chemistry and pathways translated into the potential for learning and behavioral issues, in the child. Re-routing brain pathways as they are being laid down may promote mental afflictions well beyond childhood. Anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder and concern for increased tendency for addiction may also be components of the effects caused by habitual exposure.
The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends cessation of the use of smoking (tobacco and marijuana). Additionally, this ban should be continued in women who choose to breastfeed. These same active substances found to cross the brain and the placenta, are found in breastmilk.
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