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Experts warn that misinformation about using THC products during pregnancy and breastfeeding is dangerous for mothers and their babies.

There are myths floating around, including some that say, “It’s not harmful to me or the baby” or “It’s not addictive.”

In WJXT-TV’s hour-long discussion — in conjunction with Drug Free America, Drug Free Duval, and The Florida Poison Information Center — News4JAX anchor Melanie Lawson is joined by a panel of experts to bust myths and offer resources for help keep moms and babies safe.

Not so long ago, mothers drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes during pregnancy, but we are all better educated with warning labels and public service announcements explaining the dangers of this type of decisions during pregnancy.

Fast forward to now. We have another potential threat to mom and baby. Marijuana products are quickly becoming more available, but THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – can harm babies’ development and can have lasting effects after the child is born.

The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association says the prevalence of marijuana use among pregnant women in Florida rose from 2.1% in 2002-2003 to 15.6% in 2017-2018 (the last year that published data are available), with experts warning that no amount of marijuana can be safely consumed during pregnancy.

According to Drug Free America, studies show that when marijuana is consumed by pregnant women – regardless of the method used, such as edibles, smoking or vaping – THC travels to the baby’s brain and fat cells. and binds to areas that affect the development of the central nervous system. Long-term effects on cognition and behavior can include:

  • Newborns: Fetal growth restrictions, low birth weight, increased NICU admissions, increased tremors, high pitched cries, and poor adaptation to visual stimuli

  • First school age: Aggressiveness, attention deficits, hyperactivity, impaired verbal and visual reasoning, poorer short-term memory, and poorer school performance

  • Pre-Adolescence (approximately 9 to 12 years old): The same problems can persist from the start of school, along with depression, autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, psychotic behaviors, and sleep and social problems.

  • Teenager/young adult: Lower academic achievement, problem behaviors, depression, psychosis, and an increased risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.

THC can also pass into breast milk, which can harm a baby’s development:

  • Breastfeeding among heavy marijuana users is particularly dangerous because THC is stored in fatty tissue and is slowly released over time, exposing the baby even if the mother has stopped using it.

  • One study found that one-year-olds exposed to marijuana through breast milk during the first month after birth had reduced muscle growth and body movement.

  • Other studies found that infants exposed to marijuana through breast milk had poor sucking, shorter/less regular feeding times, growth delays, and less activity.

Experts say that for pregnant women who use marijuana products to deal with morning sickness, there are several natural medications and supplements that can be used instead. They understand:

  • Ginger, which can be taken as a tea, candy, or lozenges

  • Vitamin B6, which can be taken as a supplement

  • Ginger and lemon flavored drops

  • Relief band device, which can be worn continuously for the relief of mild to moderate nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy

Resources available

If you or someone you love needs help, here is a list of local resources available:

  • River Region Social Services: rrhs.org; 904-899-6300
  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): samhsa.gov; 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All Rights Reserved.

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