Pot years before Pregnancy
May 10, 2009 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Is marijuana okay years or months BEFORE pregnancy?

I smoke pot 2-3 times a week. I'm a female, and want to be sure this won't hurt any of my potential, future children. I'm concerned about it because I know that females are born with all their eggs, so it occurred to me--- when I smoke, are my eggs being damaged? Does smoking pot years or months before conception cause birth defects?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If there was a shred of evidence to suggest that eggs were affected by marijuana, the anti-drug propagandeers would be flogging it to death.

Anecdotally, I have known many, many women who smoked pot at one time or another in their life and went on to have healthy families.
posted by jeoc at 9:40 AM on May 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Jeoc's reasoning isn't quite double-blind quality, but it'll do for now. The preponderance of pot smokers and the fact that babies continue to be born would suggest that your moderate use of pot now will have no affect on your abilities to have a healthy baby in the future. That being said, you're asking the question, and whenever anyone questions their use of a substance, they're probably using it more than they should be. Cut down to once a week, if you're concerned. Just do it to see if you can. When you're trying to conceive, you won't be smoking at all, so consider it good practice.
posted by incessant at 9:53 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

And the idea that females are born with all their eggs, seems to be under review.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:57 AM on May 10, 2009

Google says "marijuana stays stored in fat up to 6 weeks" and "marijuana's psychoactive compounds can cross the placental barrier". So you should stop before becoming pregnant to avoid impacting brain development. I don't now if eggs might suffer minor effects, but you're still not talking effects on brain development.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:18 AM on May 10, 2009

There was a study done on Jamaican women who smoked weed during their pregnancy:
Despite the prevalence of marijuana use among women of childbearing age, 1-3 reports on the behavioral teratogenic effects of prenatal marijuana exposure have been conflicting and inconclusive.
I doubt you'll ever see a study that says your fine to smoke while pregnant, but I would say confidently that other factors that you may or may not be able to control (diet, etc.) play much more heavily in the development of the fetus. If smoking marijuana caused harm, we'd probably see it by now.
posted by geoff. at 10:30 AM on May 10, 2009

Marijuana use during pregnancy, with references.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:38 AM on May 10, 2009

Does smoking pot years or months before conception cause birth defects?

Based on children I've known who's parents used pot, no. If anything the kids seemed smarter, not because of the pot smoking, but rather the parent's natural intelligence possibly combined the many thoughtful (and not so thoughtful) discussions spawned by pot.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:39 AM on May 10, 2009

[comments removed - please try to keep this on topic and not be some sort of referendum on pot usage generally]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:14 AM on May 10, 2009

I did; my kids are fine. Many, many of my friends did; all their kids are fine. My lovely, cool pediatrician to the hippies pshawed the idea that it was a big issue even during pregnancy, so, you know, don't sweat it. IANAD and this is strictly AFAIK but it seems to me that eggs are really pretty well protected as a general rule, and, mostly, birth defects are not ordinarily a result of messed up eggs but instead occur due either to some issue during the pregnancy or some unfortunate genetic issue in the combination of your and his DNA.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:41 PM on May 10, 2009

Maybe I'm reposting a comment deleted for inexplicable reasons, maybe MeFi or my computer is acting up, or maybe it's a flashback. I don't know how to tell...

If pot smoking months or years before pregnancy caused problems with children, there would have been an enormous spike in birth defencts or other problems following the society-wide increase in pot-smoking during the late 60's. There was none, no correlation, no relation.
posted by rokusan at 12:49 PM on May 10, 2009

Random internet person here. I just did a little tour of marijuana research and it doesn't look like anyone is claiming that that smoking marijuana now will screw up children you might have in the future.

That's not to say it necessarily won't, just that there doesn't appear to be research as of now showing that it specifically will, or allegations awaiting confirmation that claim that it will. As usual, the studies all say more research needs to be done in general on the effects of marijuana use.

The research mostly talks about THC/marijuana's hormonal effects. So in regard to your question, that's more about your cycle, ovulation, and fertility than about having kids with marijuana-induced developmental problems. I found a couple of old studies that talk about the theoretical possibility of very minor genetic/chromosomal effects, which would seem to be more the cause for concern if they were prevalent.

This 2005 summary of the long term effects of cannabis exposure in the journal Current Opinion on Pharmacology says the risks of using it during pregnancy are very minimal, but does mentions that high doses in pregnant rats affected a fetal brain molecule linked to brain development. But you're not asking about smoking during pregnancy (I vote no!), you're asking about smoking it on a prolonged basis prior to pregnancy.

The summary blurb in a 2002 study on the Endocrine Effects of Marijuana in the Journal of Pharmacology says that the primary effects are hormonal, but are also inconsistent in human subjects: "Animal models have demonstrated that cannabinoid administration acutely alters multiple hormonal systems, including the suppression of the gonadal [i.e., ovarian] steroids, growth hormone, prolactin, and thyroid hormone and the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis... Despite these findings in animals, the effects in humans have been inconsistent... The long-term consequences of marijuana use in humans on endocrine systems remain unclear."

So does altered hormone function lead to problems in your eggs or kids? And whether hormones are affected or not, does smoking a lot of pot otherwise necessarily harm your eggs or kids? This handful of studies from the early 1980s collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has some more info on hormonal effects but also a little info on what you're looking for - mutated genes and eggs, etc. Very technical. Chromosomes, gene expression, ovaries, mice and rats, etc. It sounds kind of nebulous and preliminary. Nothing jumps out as definitive and they draw no bold conclusions. I suppose old research is like using an outdated map, however. Might not reflect current reality. Here are some excerpts of possible relevance from the assorted studies:
"It may be concluded that cannabis and cannabinoids possess the property of a mitotic disrupter, and that they may also have extremely weak clastogenic activity [clastogenic = breaks chromosomes]... blah blah blah... suggests that induction of chromosome abnormalities transmissible to offspring is still a possibility."

"Although there is no clear evidence of increased fertility or fetal wastage among chronic marijuana abusers, the effect of the drug may be difficult to detect by epidemiological studies... Despite the relatively small percentage of increase in degenerating ova induced by THC, the biological significance of this observation may differ greatly from the adverse effect of THC on other tissues. In contrast to most somatic tissues and sperm, de novo formation of oocytes does not occur after birth...[t]hus, any damage inflicted upon oocytes is likely to be irreversible and permanent."

"Dr. Smith also emphasized that the principal site of action of cannabinoids is the hypothalamus... She observed that, in humans, it is not yet known how much disruption of reproductive hormone levels is necessary for changes in human fertility and sexual function to become apparent..."
Below is some more general info a step or two removed from the research, and focused on hormones and fertility. I have to think that since people at this level are using the current body of research as justification to issue us warnings about the reproductive effects of marijuana use, they'd be quick to include your particular concern if the research had suggested it was something to worry about:

Frontline reports: "Among women, regular marijuana use can disrupt the normal monthly menstrual cycle and inhibit the discharge of eggs from the ovaries," though the particular NIDA publication they cite as their source doesn't appear to say that specifically.

Elizabeth Lee Vliet, in her 2003 book, It's My Ovaries, Stupid!, has this to say: "...marijuana disrupts brain centers that regulate hormone production in both males and females. Luteinizing hormone (LH) is suppressed by marijuana so that it doesn't rise at midcycle to trigger ovulation. This is one way it can impair your fertility if used regularly... Marijuana also can elevate prolactin, a pituitary hormone that in turn suppresses the normal menstrual cycle and ovarian hormone production. So marijuana can decrease ovarian estradiol production, as well as compete with what estradiol you do produce for binding at the estrogen receptor... Endocrine effects of marijuana can damage sexual function and fertility in both sexes.

Still, I bet your future kids will appreciate a mom with healthier lung function and lower cancer risk. Couldn't hurt to get started on those things now.
posted by Askr at 2:18 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Suggesting that marijuana would cause birth defects is assuming that THC either has a direct effect on DNA integrity, or effects a signaling pathway that does. Neither of these options is true based on our current scientific knowledge. There is no reason to suspect that it will cause birth defects if using before pregnancy.

I would try to avoid smoking it during pregnancy, though. But if you found out you were pregnant and realize oh shit, I smoked a couple of joints during the first month and from that moment on abstained, I still think you and your baby would be all right.
posted by sickinthehead at 2:51 PM on May 10, 2009

Askr: don't just assume there is an increased cancer risk if you can't find evidence to support that. Currently there isn't any. In fact, the opposite may be true.

As far as "healthier" lung function, one could argue that increased lung capacity is healthier than not I suppose, but again there isn't serious damage being done, and what is being done is generally reversible.
posted by sickinthehead at 2:53 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sickinthehead: I did assume increased cancer risk as with smoked tobacco and didn't think to look for or include supporting evidence given the subject of the question. So, point taken. Since we're citing evidence, let's report a range of recent studies on marijuana's association with cancer risk, though certainly there are others:

1998 and 1999: it increases risk of lung cancer and cancers of the head and neck, respectively, and more study is needed
2006: it does not increase risk of lung cancer or cancers of the head and neck, and more study is needed
2008: it increases lung cancer risk, and more study is needed
2008: it may be associated with increased testicular cancer risk, and more study is needed.

So it sounds like there is currently evidence both for and against.
posted by Askr at 8:16 PM on May 10, 2009

I think since this is mostly a medical question and therefore like many other medical questions posted, you should ask your doctor for their expertise.

FWIW I have heard that smoking pot by males does affect their sperm.
posted by Taurid at 8:37 PM on May 10, 2009

Current literature. I can provide pdf copies to anyone who is interested

No increase in head or neck cancer with cannabis use.

THC is found to be protective to the body by destroying cancer cells.

Another study showing that cannabis is related to tumor death and may be an effective chemotherapeutic strategy for cancer.

A very preliminary study suggesting testicular cancer linked to cannabis use. Most preliminary cancer linkage studies end up not being able to prove a causal correlation, and luckily the original poster does not have testicles, so it's a moot point for her.

Even using cannabis when you're dying of AIDS doesn't appear to increase your cancer risk.

I've just included recent literature - i.e., from 2009.
posted by sickinthehead at 7:52 AM on May 11, 2009

[no more cancer cites please, question is not about cancer & other users can be emailed. thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:53 AM on May 11, 2009

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