Cannabis & Breastfeeding

Cannabis & Breastfeeding

Late in 2019, the ACT legislature voted in favour of legalising cannabis for personal use. This state law is due to take effect on 31 January 2020, unless otherwise blocked at a federal level and comes with some strict guidelines such as not using cannabis in public or near children. Because this a state law it is still possible to be prosecuted for possession of cannabis under federal law.

So, what is cannabis and how does it affect your pregnancy?

Cannabis is also referred to as marijuana, weed and dope. It comes from a plant and the active chemical is THC Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol. It is a depressant that slows the messages going from your brain to your body. It has a hallucinogenic effect. Marijuana is the main form of cannabis used in Australia. Anxiety and depression have been linked to long-term use of cannabis. Heavy use may affect memory and can increase your risk of paranoia, hallucinations and psychosis.

It is difficult to pinpoint the specific effect of cannabis on pregnancy. This is partly due to cannabis users often use other drugs including tobacco, alcohol and other illicit drugs. Cannabis smoke contains many of the respiratory disease-causing toxins that tobacco smoke does. Most of the time cannabis and tobacco are combined and then smoked. Tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrition your baby will receive through the placenta. This affects the baby's growth and development, possibly resulting in low birth weight. SUDI {Sudden Unexpected Death Infant}, asthma and other childhood problems have been linked with maternal smoking. There is no established link between cannabis and birth abnormalities. Around the third trimester, cannabis will move from the mother's body through the placenta to the baby. Some believe that there is a link between maternal cannabis use and learning disabilities, behavioural difficulties and memory problems later in life.

Being open and honest with your healthcare provider is important with every pregnancy. It is important to stop using cannabis when pregnant. Health care providers will assist in every way possible to ensure this happens. Attending all of your antenatal appointments is very important, where a close eye can be kept on the baby’s growth and development. And of course, with every pregnancy, if you have concerns or questions please talk to your healthcare provider.

Babies born to cannabis-using mothers may show signs of drug withdrawal. These include irritability, unsettled behaviour and they often have feeding difficulties. The severity of withdrawal will depend on how long and the amount of cannabis the mother has used. It may be necessary for the baby to stay longer in the hospital to ensure they are settled and gain weight.

As we all know breastfeeding is the best way of feeding your baby. However, THC, the active chemical in cannabis is fat-soluble and is rapidly distributed to the brain and the fatty at adipose tissue. The THC can build up and remain in the baby's body for several weeks. For this reason, breastfeeding is not recommended. To safely breastfeed your baby, you will need to stop or decrease the use of cannabis. Your health professional can help with this.



The Women’s. The Royal Women’s Hospital. Victoria.

The Australian and  New Zealand  College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist. 

Mother To Baby. Fact Sheet, Marijuana  [Cannabis]

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