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Dangers of Smoking Marijuana While Pregnant

By Carole Anne Tomlinson ; Updated August 14, 2017

Marijuana comes from the cannabis sativa plant, the leaves of which are dried and rolled into cigarettes or placed in a pipe for smoking. It is commonly used in the United States and is an illicit drug. It offers few health benefits, but it can cause problems with social behaviors, memory and learning abilities. It also can interfere with family and social life, as well as with work and school. While most people smoke marijuana for pleasure, it has been prescribed for medical ailments in some states.

Impaired Fetal Growth

The use of marijuana during pregnancy can impair the growth of the baby, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Babies who are smaller than normal at birth are at higher risk of disease and death than those born within the regular range of newborn weight. Many babies born while their mothers are using marijuana are placed in neonatal high-risk units to be monitored and helped to achieve a normal weight. A baby whose mother smoked marijuana during pregnancy may not have full organ development and may have other health problems because of the drug. Premature birth caused by smoking marijuana may make the child susceptible to many health problems.

Length of Pregnancy Decreased

When a pregnancy stops early, which can happen when the mother smokes marijuana, the baby may be born too soon. This puts the child at risk for birth defects as well as opportunistic infections because the baby's immune system may not be fully developed.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Babies who have been affected in the womb with marijuana from the mother also can be born dependent on it and may suffer withdrawal symptoms after birth. The baby is unable to cope with not having the drug. Signs of withdrawal from marijuana may include poor sleeping habits as well as irritability. Excessive crying and trembling also are key signs of withdrawal.

Attention Deficits

Babies who have suffered the effects of exposure to marijuana in the womb of the mother-to-be have difficult paying attention later on in childhood. This may continue as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, children who were developing while their mothers smoked marijuana have more problems with memory and paying attention than other children.

State Regulation

Babies who have been exposed to marijuana within their mother’s womb suffer from sensitivity to stimulation and poor sleep patterns. This means the baby finds it difficult to relax and sleep. When the baby does sleep, she may be easily woken with the slightest sound. This is called “state regulation.” The baby is able to adjust to her environment without difficulty when she does not have marijuana in her system.

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