Marijuana is the most used illicit drug among females of childbearing age and during pregnancy in the United States.1,2 This prevalence is largely secondary to the recent state level legalization of marijuana, resulting in both its availability and perceived safety.
Jamie O. Lo, MD, practices in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, and in the Division of Reproductive & Developmental Sciences, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Oregon Health & Science University, Beaverton.
The existing research suggests that marijuana use can adversely affect female reproductive health, and because its main active ingredient, Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can cross the placenta3,4 and is found in breast milk,5 there also is concern about harm to the developing fetus and offspring.
Carol B. Hanna, PhD, practices in the Division of Reproductive & Developmental Sciences, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Oregon Health & Science University, Beaverton.
Public health initiatives have advised those attempting to conceive, those who are pregnant, and lactating patients to abstain from using marijuana. However, because the available safety data and literature are limited, many continue marijuana use during pregnancy.
This is troublesome considering that the potency of marijuana has significantly increased in the past decade.6 The average concentration of THC in products sold in dispensaries can range from 17.7% to 23.2% but can be as high as 75.9%.7
Also, only 17% to 31% of the THC content in products sold through state-licensed and internet dispensaries is accurately labeled.8,9 With growing public endorsement of the potential benefits of marijuana, it is important for health care providers to effectively counsel patients regarding its effects on fertility and future offspring.