The Pros and Cons of Marijuana as a Mother
Though marijuana is often considered a drug for the young and rebellious, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported that middle aged parents are now more likely to use marijuana than their teenage children.
This is partly due to the increased accessibility of marijuana with legalization of the drug across the country. Recreational marijuana is now legal in seven states, making the drug nearly as easily obtainable as alcohol – all you need is a valid identification that proves you are twenty-one or older. And medical marijuana is legal in 29 states. But is using marijuana safe for parents with children, especially young children, under their watch? And what are the risks that mothers and expectant mothers, in particular, face? Here are the pros and cons of using marijuana as a mother.
PRO: Post-Partum Depression Cure?
Nearly 80% of new mothers experience some form of mood disturbance after giving birth, including mood swings, sadness, and irritability. One in nine mothers is diagnosed with postpartum depression, a severe mood disorder that causes prolonged withdrawal from family and friends, inability to eat and sleep, excessive mood swings, and difficulty bonding with the baby. Marijuana has been found to successfully treat postpartum depression, offering reprieve for mothers that are unresponsive or uncomfortable with traditional medical treatment.
CON: Possibility for Birth Defects
For expectant mothers, however, marijuana might present more risk than potential benefit. According to the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health, smoking or using marijuana while pregnant may pose significant risk to fetal development. Studies have found that frequent marijuana use while pregnant is associated with low birth weight, increased risk of stillbirth, and cognitive delays in newborns.
PRO: Anxiety Treatment
An estimated nine percent of mothers are affected by severe postpartum anxiety, and an even larger percentage of mothers will experience anxiety over the course of their lifetime. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, women are two times more likely to suffer from anxiety than men. Occasional marijuana use has been shown to decrease symptoms of mild to severe anxiety, as well as other related disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and impulse-control disorder.
CON: Breast Feeding Hazard
Similar to the risks of using marijuana while pregnant, marijuana use during periods of breast feeding can pose health risks to newborn babies. When a new mother smokes or ingests marijuana, ultra-concentrated amounts of THC can reach breast milk deposits. According to some studies, THC levels in breast milk may be eight times higher than a mother’s blood THC content. If ingested, this THC-heavy breast milk can cause babies to produce evidence of marijuana in their urine for several weeks following. THC exposure in babies and young children can cause impaired motor development, muscle weakness, and brain cell damage.
PRO: Bringing Partners Together
Couples who smoke together, stay together. Some couples report that smoking marijuana together decreases the frequency of arguments, and increases sexual satisfaction and intimacy with a partner. This can be especially useful for parents, as rates of relationship dissatisfaction increase two-fold when a couple has one or more children.
CON: Social Stigma
Even though recreational marijuana has been legalized in seven states, and medical marijuana use has been legalized in twenty more states, marijuana use is still highly stigmatized in many parent communities. Some mothers who have shared their marijuana use with other parents have been, for lack of a better word, shunned – their children banned from interacting with others. This negative perception of marijuana could disrupt relationships for both parents and children.
PRO: Alternative to Prescription Drugs
Prescription drug abuse among women has increased by 500% in the past decade. Now more than 18 million women over the age of 26 use prescription drugs for uses other than prescribed, and the rate of abuse is suspected to be higher in mothers than non-mothers. Marijuana offers many of the same benefits of prescription drugs, most notably pain-relief, with a far lower addiction rate and fewer withdrawal symptoms.
CON: Potential Employment Risk
Even though medical and recreational marijuana are legal in some states, marijuana is still a federally classified substance. This means that your employer may reserve the right to terminate your employment if your use of the drug interferes with company policy. Mothers looking to try marijuana should thoroughly read their company’s drug policy before using to better understand the risks they face.