National organizations release formal recommendations on marijuana use during pregnancy
July 5, 2015
Steamboat Springs — The legalization of recreational marijuana in states including Colorado has led national medical organizations to release formal recommendations on the use of the drug, specifically as they may affect pregnant women and mothers.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement in June denouncing the use of marijuana by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is expected to follow suit with similar recommendations this month.
The recommendations provide support for physicians who already subscribe to the potential dangers of mothers using marijuana, including local physician Dr. Steven Ross of Sleeping Bear Pediatrics.
They could also sway the recommendations given by OB-GYNs and pediatricians who are part of the national organizations, Ross said.
"This represents a very large consensus," Ross said.
Ross said that there is no safe level of THC consumption during a woman's pregnancy and concerns exist for the infant's IQ, memory and overall cognitive development.
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The labels of retail marijuana products currently must include a warning statement saying that "there may be additional health risks" for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
In April, the Colorado legislature voted down a bill that would have also required maternal warnings regarding the use of marijuana to be posted inside dispensaries in a conspicuous place.
Ross said he believes the use of marijuana by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers is very common, including in Routt County.
"It's pretty widespread," Ross said.
At Yampa Valley Medical Center, new mothers in March began receiving handouts called "Marijuana and Your Baby," published by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment to educate the mothers about the potential harms of marijuana.
Staff at YVMC's Family Birth Place said that although marijuana is legal, it doesn't make it safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Staff said that THC from marijuana is stored in the fat of breast milk, with levels of THC sometimes eight times higher than levels in a woman's blood.
Mothers are encouraged by Family Birth Place staff to "pump and dump" breast milk until they test negative for THC, which can sometimes take three to four weeks.
A good time to discuss marijuana usage during pregnancy might be during a pre-natal visit with a doctor before becoming pregnant, according to the ACOG recommendations.
Such a visit could help a woman better understand the risks of using marijuana while pregnant at the earliest time.
More information about the use of marijuana while pregnant is available on the Colorado Department of Public Health website, http://www.colorado.gov. The ACOG recommendations are available at http://www.acog.org.