Cannabis Use During Pregnancy: is it Safe?

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The Government of Canada plans to legalize cannabis on October 17, 2018, which will allow Canadians over the age of 18 to possess and use the drug legally. But this decision does not mean that cannabis use is safe. Research shows that cannabis can impair a person’s concentration, memory, judgement, and reaction time, and cause tiredness, confusion, panic, fear, and anxiety.1

With more social and political attention on cannabis, the issue of cannabis use during pregnancy is becoming a “hot topic” for women, health care providers, and researchers.

Quick Facts:

  • Cannabis use among Canadian women increased from 7% in 2013 to 11% in 20152
  • Cannabis is the most commonly used recreational drug by women during pregnancy.3
  • 11-14% of women in recent studies reported cannabis use during the first trimester4,5
  • THC crosses the placenta and accumulates in breastmilk, both of which can affect a baby6

Although many women believe there is little to no risk of recreational cannabis use while pregnant, it can affect a child’s growth and development. There is not a lot of consistent research in the area, so findings should be interpreted with caution. However, cannabis use has been shown in some studies to have negative consequences before, during, and after pregnancy.7

Before pregnancy, cannabis use can:

  • Change the female menstrual cycle
  • Lower sperm count in males
  • Make it difficult to get pregnant

During pregnancy, cannabis use can:

  • Lower oxygen and nutrient supply to the baby
  • Restrict the baby’s physical growth
  • Lead to premature birth, miscarriage, and stillbirth

After pregnancy, cannabis use can:

  • Affect early mother-baby attachment and other aspects of parenting (if the mother continues to use)
  • Lead to challenges in children who were exposed in the womb
    • Brain development (e.g., IQ, memory, and learning)
    • Hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity
    • Future substance use

Expert opinion is that there is no safe amount of cannabis use during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding are strongly encouraged to avoid cannabis of any form to protect their child from potential harm.

For More Information:

CanFASD has several resources on cannabis use during pregnancy:

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction published this 2015 report on maternal use of cannabis during pregnancy.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recently released a public awareness campaign to educate women on the possible consequences of using cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding. Watch the short clip below for a brief introduction, and access the full site here.


  1. Health Canada. (2017). Health effects of cannabis.
  2. Health Canada. (2017). Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs (CTADS): 2015 summary.
  3. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. (2015). Clearing the smoke on cannabis: Maternal cannabis use during pregnancy – an update.
  4. Goldschmidt, L., Richardson, G. A., Cornelius, M. D., & Day, N. L. (2004). Prenatal marijuana and alcohol exposure and academic achievement at age 10. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 26(4), 521-532.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality
  6. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. (2018). Pregnancy info (cannabis campaign).
  7. Best Start Resource Centre. (2017). Risks of cannabis on fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and parenting.


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