The Nevada Legislature Building in Carson City on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
Photo: David Calvert / The Nevada Independent
Health experts told lawmakers Thursday many pregnant women don’t see marijuana as a significant danger to their baby before birth and in breastfeeding after birth.
Dr. Deepa Nagar of St. Rose Dominican Hospitals-San Martin Campus in Henderson said harmful chemicals, including THC from marijuana, can pass through into the baby through breast feeding and that the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration strongly advise mothers to avoid using pot while pregnant or breast feeding. She said those chemicals can affect fetal brain development, cause low birth weight and other serious problems.
But she said hard evidence from controlled studies is limited at this point, “so they don’t actually know if it’s safe or what doses may be safe or dangerous.”
Nagar added the amount of THC in pot has quadrupled since the 1980s and with legalization, 15-28 percent of women in their child-bearing years now admit to using pot.
She outlined several cases she has dealt with where the mother adamantly argued she could use pot while breast feeding. While doctors convinced them to use formula while in the hospital, several of those women said they would feed their baby with breast milk after leaving the hospital. She said they believe pot is safer than other drugs or alcohol.
She said some physicians are beginning to argue that the benefits of breast milk outweigh the risk it brings to the child.
Alexia Benshoof of the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services said nearly 20 percent of expectant mothers reported using pot. She said the percentage of pregnant women using illegal drugs and those using prescription drugs has remained stable over the past decade but that pot use is up 212 percent since recreational use was legalized.
Nagar said CBD products also pose the risk of containing other contaminants such as heavy metals and funguses that could be dangerous to infant health.
Pot products purchased from licensed dispensaries are required to have warnings on their labels that the pot should be kept out of the reach of children because they could cause severe illness in children. But Nagar said most of the pregnant women they talked with said they don’t get their marijuana from those dispensaries, instead purchasing from street dealers because the legal stores are too expensive.
Dr. Andrea Peterson of Roseman University in Henderson said drug-induced deaths are the leading cause of death for reproductive-age women in the U.S. and Dr. Brian Iriye of Hera Woman’s Health said the maternal mortality rate is highest among the Black, non-Hispanic population.
The testimony came during the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Human Services.