Why It's Not Safe To Use Medical Marijuana When Breastfeeding

Pregnancy requires a woman to drop or limit her habits for at least nine months to avoid a detrimental influence on the fetus. The habits include consuming alcohol, drugs, doing sports, or smoking tobacco or marijuana. Giving birth to a child lifts some of these limitations, and young mothers return to their pre-pregnancy lives. However, breastfeeding is a process that is most usually affected by the consumption of medical or recreational marijuana. We have done some research to find out if using medical marijuana while breastfeeding is safe and why.

Threats of Marijuana Use During Lactation

Right from inception, let us dive into the possible reasons why women anywhere from Tampa to Anchorage use medical or recreational marijuana while lactating and breastfeeding. This will help understand why the problem is even there to start with.

Most frequently, women who smoke marijuana during the breastfeeding period have been using medical marijuana before pregnancy for various reasons. These may include treating eating disorders, glaucoma, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), muscle spasms, epilepsy, pain, and many other widespread conditions that may return or even worsen after pregnancy. Hence, mothers tend to return to using medical marijuana after giving birth.

Mothers with a previous history of recreational marijuana use are more susceptible to taking up the habit again during the lactation period. This is often due to the need to combat postnatal stress.

The Influence on the Mother

Women who have reported using chronic use of marijuana before and during pregnancy, as well as during lactation, have been found to be susceptible to hyperprolactinemia. This is a condition that is characterized by increased lactation due to the increase in the level of prolactin in the mother’s blood. The use of recreational or medical marijuana has been reported to cause the condition, which even induces in galactorrhea (milky discharge from the nipple in non-breastfeeding females) in chronic female marijuana users.

A decrease has been reported in the duration of breastfeeding in women who have been using marijuana as compared to those who haven’t. This has been proven by surveys done in Colorado in 2014 and 2015.

The Influence on the Child

Florida medical marijuana doctors report that marijuana use is not safe for children that feed on breast milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAC), for instance, has issued guidelines for marijuana use in pregnant women in 2018. The guidelines strongly advise against the use of any form of marijuana because of the possible negative impact on the baby both in the prenatal and postnatal periods as well as during lactation. 

The main active components of marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is present in recreational cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) present mainly in medical marijuana. THC is more damaging for the child; however, this does not mean that CBD is safe – certain CBD strains contain THC derivatives that can impact the child’s organism at an early age with long-standing consequences. Chemicals absorbed together with the mother’s milk affect the child’s brain and affect development.

The effects on the child may include brain damage, development impairment, and, as a result, thinking, memory, and attention problems for the child in the future as they grow up. For instance, in just a year of development, children whose mothers used marijuana for medical or recreational reasons why breastfeeding have been reported to be developing more slowly and having weaker brain response as compared to those whose mothers who abstained from the use of marijuana altogether.

Another negative consequence for the baby may be the increased chance of them taking up a drug addiction later on in their life. The reason is that the baby’s body, while receiving all nutrients through mother’s milk, also absorbs and processes the chemicals dissolved in it. CBD is one of such chemicals, and the organism is not developed enough to properly process CBD, not to mention that the response to THC derivatives may be abnormal. Hence, the baby can acquire an increased susceptibility to drugs as they, in fact, had been introduced to the threshold substance in early childhood.

Does Pumping and Dumping Help?

Some mothers practice pumping their milk after they have smoked a joint or otherwise consumed marijuana products and dispose of it afterward. It is quite a popular belief that this will prevent the influence of cannabidiol (or tetrahydrocannabinol) on the baby. However, research has shown that this may not be the case.

To begin with, both CBD and THC are fat-soluble substances. This means that what the body basically does is that it dissolves marijuana in fat cells and stores THC and its derivatives in its fat deposits. The mother’s body then uses its own fat to lactate, so the narcotic substance is transferred into the milk.

The catch here is that the human body has been reported to store marijuana components in its fat deposits for several days, weeks, or even months. This means that the breastfeeding mother will have either CBD or THC in her milk within this whole period. Taking into account this simple fact, it becomes obvious that pumping and dumping does not work. However, if you plan to drop marijuana and continue breastfeeding after your body disposes of THC deposits, this method might speed up the process, if only for just a bit.

Summing Up

All things considered, breastfeeding while on medical or recreational marijuana may be harmful to the baby. Scientists and doctors both advise against it. As tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) that are present in cannabis are stored in the mother’s body for long periods of time and are transferred to the baby via milk, it would be a good idea for the mother to abstain from the use of marijuana and get it flushed from the system entirely before breastfeeding. Otherwise, harmful consequences may occur later on in the child’s life, including impaired development, memory and concentration problems, emotional regulation problems, and future risk of drug addiction. One must also keep in mind that methods like pumping breast milk and disposing of it for several days in a row will not prevent marijuana components from getting into the baby’s system.

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