THC and newborns

Just as drinking by pregnant women can lead to disastrous consequences for their babies, there are new concerns that the legalization of recreational marijuana is increasing risks for newborns.

Stories from Colorado have noted a spike in the number of babies with THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) in their bloodstreams, urine and feces since the state legalized recreational use in 2014.

While there is no doubt that THC in the mother passes into the placenta, doctors have also concluded that it can also be passed through breast-feeding after the baby is born.

The Denver Post highlighted the concerns of Dr. Steven Simerville, medical director of the newborn intensive care unit at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, Colo.

“What I’m seeing in our nursery is a dramatic increase in babies who test positive for marijuana,” the doctor told the Post. “The interesting thing for me is the number of mothers who use marijuana and want to breast-feed. They don’t believe marijuana is harmful.”

Simerville said his worries mirror the concerns of the American Academy of Pediatrics. That group has linked marijuana in newborn babies, a critical stage for brain development, to academic underachievement and behavioral disorders.

“There’s an education gap that we need to fill. It may be safe for adults, but not for adolescents and newborns,” he told the newspaper.

Another story in The New York Times in February said there is evidence that prenatal use of marijuana can affect “brain development, cognition and birth weight.”

Certainly the safest course for the health of a baby is to treat marijuana usage during pregnancy and breast-feeding the way one would treat drinking and smoking at such stages — don’t do it.

(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.