Can You Eat Edibles During Pregnancy? The Risks Explained

Marijuana and other THC-containing products are becoming legalized in many locations where they were previously banned. With that comes curiosity about their safety. Most of us are aware that alcohol and cigarettes are a no-go when expecting, but are there any similar risks with using marijuana in edible form? 

Even though they are eaten and not smoked, THC edibles aren’t risk-free during pregnancy. Regular consumption is linked to a number of side effects all the way from fetal development to early adulthood once your child is grown. 

Let’s dive into what the side effects are and if there’s a safe dose to stick to. 

Can You Eat Edibles When Pregnant? Is it Safe?

It’s no secret that smoking, whether it be tobacco cigarettes, vapes, or marijuana, is proven to harm lung health. Some folks have turned to marijuana edibles to produce the same high without smoke, falsely assuming that without the smoke marijuana is risk-free. During pregnancy, that is certainly not the case. 

For readers who are unfamiliar, ‘edibles’ refers to marijuana, or weed, that’s been incorporated into anything, well, edible. Most often this is done with weed-infused butter in baked goods, as well as marijuana gummies and hard candies. 

marijuana gummies edibles

There is no difference between the marijuana used in edibles and the kinds that are smoked to induce a high and the compounds in marijuana do have an effect on your growing baby. 

Much like other mind-altering substances (alcohol, street drugs) the psychoactive component of marijuana known as THC crosses the placenta from mom to baby. This means that a percentage of the marijuana you ingest will also be delivered to your baby. 

Numerous studies have shown that the use of marijuana while pregnant, including taking edibles, leads to lower birth weights, risk of preterm delivery, and withdrawal-like symptoms shortly after birth. These effects were more likely in babies born to mothers who used weed at least once weekly during pregnancy (source: ACOG). 

The effects of THC on a developing baby aren’t limited to the newborn period. Because the THC molecule is attracted to fat molecules, it easily reaches the fatty tissues in the baby’s brain where it can affect cognitive development.

Researchers found that cannabis use during pregnancy is associated with problems in learning, memory, language, aggression, executive function and impulsivity, and even higher risk of the child developing a substance use disorder themselves all the way into young adulthood (source: Frontiers in Psychology). 

Not only is marijuana use associated with negative birth outcomes and impaired long-term neurodevelopment, but edibles are not always well regulated. The amount of THC in edibles can vary greatly depending on how much marijuana was used and the strength of the strain.

In areas where marijuana is still illegal (or even if areas where it is legal but you purchase from an unlicensed seller) there is also a possibility that the edibles were spiked with other dangerous drugs without your knowledge. 

Because edibles rely on the absorption of the THC through the GI tract in order to produce the high, there is a delay in time eaten to time high symptoms start. This can easily lead to accidental overconsumption (source: Obstetrics and Gynecology Surveys). 

cookies with marijuana, edibles

Edibles are often quite enticing and look just like typical tasty treats. If you have other children or even pets, it’s important to keep these items out of their reach since the THC is quite dangerous for both little and furry family members alike. 

Overall, THC-containing products are correlated with some pretty serious side effects, though it does seem that how much and how often play a role.

If you are prescribed marijuana for a medical condition and want to get pregnant, we recommend having a talk with your doctor to discuss all of the possible treatment options and which are safest during pregnancy. 

I Ate Edibles Before I Knew I Was Pregnant: Now What?

A surprise pregnancy can be both wonderful and exciting, as well as nerve-wracking if you had edibles before you found out. 

As hard as it may be, the first step is not to lose yourself in worry over the ‘what-ifs.’ While you can’t take it back, you can opt to avoid edibles going forward to limit repeated exposure, which is what the research has shown to be more harmful. 

In the studies we looked at above, the side effects and risks were most common in women who used marijuana weekly and in women with other pregnancy behavior risk factors like drinking alcohol regularly and smoking tobacco. 

The best thing you can do is to avoid taking any more edibles and then be honest with your medical provider in case they wish to do any additional monitoring. 

What Happens if You Accidentally Eat an Edible When Pregnant?

Sometimes accidents happen. The answer to this is similar to eating edibles before you knew about your pregnancy. 

Though eating something with the potential for side effects during pregnancy can be scary, it’s important here to keep in mind that these effects were seen in women who used marijuana on a weekly basis. A one-off accident is not the same as taking edibles week after week after week and is unlikely to cause any harm.

As your pregnancy progresses and you let your friends and family in on your exciting life change it’s also likely that the people in your life will be more aware of what they’re putting into the food they serve you. Most folks don’t make a habit of giving pregnant women drugs, after all!

marijuana chocolate cupcakes, edibles

Can You Take Edibles if Trying to Get Pregnant?

Trying for a baby, especially if a positive test isn’t coming as soon as you’d hoped, can feel more exhausting than fun. Other times, you simply might not be ready to give up all of your old habits until you see two pink lines. Whatever the reason, is there any harm in eating edibles when you’re not pregnant yet but might be soon?

Anything that stresses the body, including chemicals like THC, can affect your hormones. In order for pregnancy to happen your hormones need to be cycling in the right pattern.

When they don’t, the timing of ovulation can be delayed and you can’t conceive if you don’t ovulate. On the male side of things, THC can decrease sperm count, making it harder to conceive (source: March of Dimes). 

Since edibles are eaten, not smoked, this does decrease their stress on the body but might not get rid of the stress altogether. You certainly can still eat edibles when trying to conceive, but if you’re struggling to get pregnant it is worth knowing that the marijuana could be affecting you and your partner’s fertility. 

While accidentally taking an edible during pregnancy isn’t likely to cause any harm, eating edibles- or using THC/marijuana in any other way- on a regular basis is associated with a number of short and long term side effects.

This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.

Samantha Broghammer, RD

Samantha Broghammer, RD is a Wisconsin-based registered dietitian and nutrition writer. In addition to contributing to Pregnancy Food Checker, she serves the mental health and wellness population as a clinical dietitian providing medical nutrition therapy to those of all ages, from toddlers through senior citizens.

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