CBC: What we know about how safe cannabis is for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms

baby-in-wombWhile we know a lot about the dangers of drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes while pregnant, now that it’s legal, what about using cannabis? There is much less that we know about what happens to babies when their moms use pot while pregnant or breastfeeding.

This week hundreds of health care professionals are gathering to hear presentations that will look at those questions. Sarah Konefal, a research and policy analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, will be one of the speakers.

She spoke with the CBC’s Conrad Collaco about what we know now about the effect of cannabis on women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. You can read an abridged and edited version of the interview or listen to the full audio interview by hitting the play button above.

Sarah Konefal, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

(Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction)

What do we know about using pot while pregnant?

We know from studies that frequent use of cannabis during pregnancy — daily or near daily use — does increase risk of adverse outcomes including risk for low birth weight as well as adverse effects on cognition and behaviour in children and adolescents that persists to early adulthood. This contributes to poor academic achievement.

This risk is independent of alcohol or tobacco use. It does hinge on smoking cannabis. We don’t know too much about what happens if a pregnant woman is using via the other ways of consumption. We also don’t know too much about risks that are specific to breastfeeding. If a woman is using cannabis while breastfeeding it’s most likely she was using cannabis while pregnant. We do know that THC, one of the important psychoactive compounds of cannabis does get into the breast milk. It is transferred to the infant, metabolized and excreted, so there is definitely the potential for that affecting brain development.

There’s really no evidence that there is a safe amount of cannabis to consume and really if you want to be on the careful side that’s what you should aim for.– Sarah Konefal, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

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