New research to be presented at the 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition has found the breast milk of cannabis users does not harm the short-term health of premature infants.  

While the long-term effects of cannabis use in pregnancy are still unknown and it remains recommended not to use cannabis while pregnant, the study concluded that breast milk from THC-positive women had no negative impact on preterm babies before hospital discharge. 

The abstract, titled ‘Maternal Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Assessing In-Hospital Outcomes of Early Preterm Infants’, will be presented at the conference.

The study analysed the medical records of 763 early preterm babies from 2014 to 2020 with the data showing 17% of their mothers tested positive for THC at the time of delivery.

Researchers compared the medical records of preterm infants who were fed breast milk from THC-positive mothers to those fed normal formula or THC-free breast milk. No differences in short-term health impacts such as breathing difficulties, lung development, and feeding issues were found.

University of Maryland School of Medicine associate professor of pediatrics Dr Natalie Davis said teasing out the effects of THC can be very difficult. 

“Providing breast milk from THC-positive women to preterm infants remains controversial since long-term effects of this exposure are unknown.”

“Our study, however, did provide some reassuring news in terms of short-term health effects. It definitely indicates that more research is needed in this area to help provide women and doctors with further guidance.”

The researchers found that women who screened positive for THC were frequently late to obtain prenatal care, which could have a detrimental effect on their baby, separate from cannabis use. 

Earlier this month, a New Zealand researcher was granted more than NZ$100,000 to investigate the effects of cannabis smoking during pregnancy.

Hannah Adler

Hannah is a communications professional and early-career researcher in the disciplines of health communication and health sociology. She is a PhD student at Griffith University currently writing a...