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Cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding

If you are pregnant, planning to be pregnant or breastfeeding, we strongly recommend that you quit all recreational drug use. If you are unable to stop using cannabis, we strongly recommend you cut down your level of use, to reduce harmful exposure to your unborn baby.

The effects of cannabis when used in pregnancy

Effects on your baby are dose-related, which means the more you use, the greater the potential effect on your baby. Cannabis smokers commonly mix cannabis with tobacco and smoke a combination of the two, resulting in babies being exposed to two harmful substances. Babies exposed to regular cannabis use during pregnancy may exhibit withdrawal-type symptoms after birth, with increased tremulousness, exaggerated startles and disrupted sleep patterns. If these symptoms occur, they usually disappear within the first few months of a baby’s life. Research shows that children exposed to cannabis in utero are at an increased risk of subtle effects on memory, reasoning and brain function; reduced height at age six; behaviour and attention problems and childhood depression. 1,2,3,4,5

Cannabis use and breastfeeding

Cannabis enters breast milk to some extent and may also affect breast milk supply. The long-term effect from this exposure is not known.5 The benefits of breastfeeding your baby may outweigh these potential risks and we suggest you stop your cannabis use, rather than interrupt your plans to breastfeed.

How can I keep my baby healthy and safe?

Quit cannabis use as soon as you can. Anytime is a good time to stop. Use the quitting plan in this booklet, and if you need more assistance to help you quit, speak to your midwife. Plan for a smoke-free and drug-free home environment for your baby and always follow safe sleeping guidelines for your baby. Develop a safety plan for after your baby’s birth (e.g. if you plan a night out, make prior arrangements for a trusted, non-drug using person to care for your baby and plan child care for when you need to rest. Always seek help if you have any concerns about your baby—consult your general practitioner (GP), paediatrician, child health nurse or local hospital.

Stay calm and positive and do ask for help when you need it.

Are you ready for a change?


I'm not thinking about quitting cannabis (maybe you should start thinking about quitting).


I know that I should quit but I need a smoke (think about why you smoke).


I have decided to quit.

I have

I am seeing a counsellor/have started to cut down.

I did

Getting there, it has now been months since I used cannabis.


I'm so stressed, I need a smoke.


The cannabis stopping/cutting down plan

Here is a plan to help you set a goal and achieve change.

Write down your cannabis usage—how often and how much?


Write down your goal—stopping/cutting down—how many and by when?


Write down three reasons why you are still using?
Can you think of more positive ways to respond to these reasons for using?


Write down three reasons why you should stop using cannabis.



Use these suggestions to help cut down on your cannabis use

  • Pack away your drug utensils.
  • Change to a less potent preparation.
  • Do not use unless you really need to and stop once you have the effect.
  • Learn some relaxation techniques (e.g. deep or controlled breathing, visualisation).
  • Think positive thoughts (and positive self talk “I can do this.”).
  • Every day review your goal/reasons-to-stop.
  • Be kind to yourself.

Cravings and triggers

  • Delay the urge to use; wait for 10 minutes, the urge may pass.
  • Detour from friends who use and where they socialise.
  • Distract yourself with more pleasurable, positive pursuits.
  • Determine your moods, acknowledge if things are not going well.
  • Deep breathe.
  • Dial for help or time out (alcohol and drug counselling—07 38375989 or free call 1800 177833).

Information about the effects of using substances while you are pregnant is available from staff at Mater Mothers’ Hospital CHAMP Clinic on telephone 07 3163 2417 or email champ@mater.org.au


  1. Mater Pharmacy Drug Information, November 2004.
  2. Huizink AC, Mulder EJH. Maternal smoking, drinking or cannabis use during pregnancy and neurobehavioural and cognitive functioning in human offspring. Neurosc Behav Rev 2006; 30: 24-41
  3. Cornelius MD, Goldschmidt L, Day NL, Larkby C. Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use among pregnant teenagers: 6-year follow up of offspring growth effects. Neurotoxicology and Teratology. 2002;24:703-710.
  4. Goldschmidt L, Day NL, Richardson GA. Effects of prenatal marijuana exposure on child behaviour problems at age 10. Neurotoxicology and Teratology. 2000;22:325-336.
  5. Leech SL, Larkby CA, Day R, Day NL. Predictors and correlates of high levels of depression and anxiety symptoms among children at age 10. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2006;45(2):223-230.
  6. Liston J. Breastfeeding and the use of recreational drugs – alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and marijuana. Breastfeed Rev. 1998 Aug;6(2):27-30.
Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-430044
Last modified 08/8/2017.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 18/1/2014
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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