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Many women assume marijuana is harmless because so many states have legalized the drug and we're used to hearing about its touted medicinal benefits. In fact, marijuana use among pregnant women in the U.S. increased 62 percent between 2002 and 2014, according to the AAP. It's particularly common among women with severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, according to a recent study.
The problem is we don't know for sure how exposure to marijuana affects babies. What scientists do know is your baby will likely consume the drug's main psychoactive chemical, THC, if you use pot while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Past research shows THC easily crosses from a pregnant mom's bloodstream to her baby through the placenta. A new study, released in the journal Pediatrics along with the AAP's report, shows THC accumulates in breast milk as well.
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, tested breast milk samples from 50 women who reported using marijuana. They detected THC in more than half of the samples and found it showed up in breast milk up to 6 days after a woman used pot.
What does this mean for babies? Researchers are still working to figure it out. So far the findings are concerning. The few studies that exist on this topic suggest marijuana exposure affects babies' brain development. This could lead to problems with attention, impulse control and problem solving, and even put babies at higher risk for mental illness and substance use disorder when they grow older, according to the AAP.
"Many of these effects may not show up right away, but they can impact how well a child can maneuver in the world," Dr. Sheryl Ryan, a lead author of the AAP's report said in a statement. "Children's and teens' ability to manage their time, school work, and jobs might all be harmed down the line from marijuana use during their mother's pregnancy."
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