A new study has found that cannabis can stay in breast milk for as long as six days. Thus, pediatricians are warning pregnant and breastfeeding mothers against using the drug.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which is the main psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis — was still present in breast milk almost a week after the drug was consumed.
The researchers from AAP looked into the staying power of cannabis, as nine states in the U.S. already legalizing the recreational use of the drug and 30 states allowing it for medical purposes.
The new study was published in the Pediatrics journal. It found that THC was present in 63% of the 54 samples of breast milk obtained from women who had smoked cannabis before pumping.
The AAP noted in a statement that between 2002 and 2014, cannabis use among pregnant women rose by 62%.
Dr. Sheryl A. Ryan, one of the study’s lead authors and head of the AAP Committee on Substance Use and Prevention, said that the fact that cannabis is now legal in many states in the country may give people the impression that using the drug is harmless during pregnancy. Add to this the stories spreading on social media about the use of cannabis to treat nausea and morning sickness.
Ryan admits, though, that this is still a relatively big question mark as they still do not have safety data on prenatal exposure to the drug. She said that based on the limited amount of existing data, pediatricians like her believe that there is cause to be concerned about how cannabis will affect the children’s long-term development.
Dr. Mary Jana Minkin, member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad and ob-gyn from Yale University, noted that existing studies indeed demonstrate that there is a risk.
Minkin explained that even if a mother smokes just one time, existing studies show that the drug crosses the placenta and that this brings about a 10% concentration of THC to transfer to the baby. This concentration amount goes up with repeated use, according to Minkin.
What’s more, Minkin pointed out that the other problem is the fact that THC binds really well to fats in the cell membranes and can therefore achieve a significant level in both the mom’s brain and in the fetal brain.
As for those moms-to-be who are using cannabis to fight off their nausea and morning sickness, Minkin said that there are many other options available that are safer. In fact, she said that there is some data on vitamin B6, which helps with nausea during pregnancy.