When a woman is pregnant, everything she consumes impacts the fetus growing inside her womb. Drugs, food, and beverages can get into the placenta, the fetus’s major food and oxygen source throughout pregnancy. And as the fetus is vulnerable during development, women need to be cautious about what they put into their systems.
The overwhelming medical advice is that pregnant women should avoid using medications (unless prescribed by a doctor). This means staying away from over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, as well as illegal substances like magic mushrooms, LSD, and other psychedelics.
If you’re worried about psychedelics, you may have taken in the early stages of your pregnancy (before or after you knew you were pregnant), or you would like to find out the risks of any future consumption, read on. This article looks at the effect of psychedelics on pregnant women and any potential harm to unborn babies.
What Are Psychedelics
Psychedelics or hallucinogens are drugs that change a person’s perception, mood, or cognition. They affect your senses, including changing how you think, your perception of time, space, emotions, and they can cause you to hallucinate.
There are many different psychedelics; some are made in labs, while others occur naturally in trees, vines, seeds, fungi, and leaves. This article will look at the scientific evidence available on the impact of two of the most popular psychedelics, LSD and psilocybin, on a pregnant mother and her unborn child.
Impact of Using LSD While Pregnant
Most research into LSD and pregnancy was conducted years ago, and the results aren’t overly clear. However, there are some studies we can draw on as follows:
A series of studies conducted throughout the 70s found evidence that:
- LSD usage during pregnancy may cause birth abnormalities.
- Rats that consumed LSD while pregnant had LSD deposits in the placenta.
- LSD can dramatically reduce fetal blood flow.
- Newborns born with eye defects like cataracts and retinal dysplasia due to maternal LSD use during pregnancy.
It’s important to note that the research is old, limited, and not always conclusive, so it warrants future investigation. That said, if there’s even a tiny chance that LSD use during pregnancy could cause defects, it’s best to avoid consumption.
In 1970, William McGlothlin, Robert Sparkes, and David Arnold conducted a study into the effect of LSD on pregnancy. The research found that the number of miscarriages was higher than average in a sample of 27 pregnant women that consumed LSD. On the other hand, when the father consumed LSD only, a causal relationship could not be established.
Another study conducted in 1977 shows LSD caused alterations in secluded rat uterine muscle tissue that were similar to the effects of drugs used to expedite labor in another trial. These findings imply that using LSD during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage.
Impact of Using Psilocybin While Pregnant
There is very little research into the impact of psilocybin (magic mushrooms) on a pregnant woman or her unborn child. However, as most medical experts suggest, pregnant women should avoid all illegal drugs; it is highly recommended that magic mushrooms should not be consumed either.
Psilocin Can Cross the Placental and Blood-Brain Barriers
One study on pregnant rats showed that psilocin did cross the placental and blood-brain barriers of the pregnant rats, meaning psilocin was eliminated slowly from the fetal tissues of rats.
Granted, the evidence is limited, but this study does show that the drug may pass to the unborn baby. Therefore, it is not advisable to consume magic mushrooms during pregnancy.
Studies into the effect of magic mushrooms on congenital disabilities are limited. Some blogs claim consuming mushrooms may lead to birth defects, and they should be avoided, but the statements are not always backed up by science. However, the discussion above shows that the substance can likely pass to the baby during pregnancy, and therefore, it’s highly advisable to avoid use during pregnancy.
Again, there is no clear evidence that magic mushrooms can cause miscarriage. However, as the study above shows the potential of the drug passing on to the baby rats and the clear recommendation from doctors to avoid all legal and illegal drugs when pregnant, it would be much safer to steer clear during pregnancy.
Impact of Using MDMA While Pregnant
As MDMA causes abnormal blood flow, it is believed that consuming it while pregnant can cause birth defects like gastroschisis. Let’s find out more.
There have been a few studies into congenital disabilities and behavioral problems due to the use of MDMA by pregnant women. Here’s what they found:
- A couple of studies with a total of 170 pregnant women who consumed ecstasy did not find a link to an increased risk of having a congenital disability. Still, an increased risk of gastroschisis has been potentially linked to ecstasy use at the start of pregnancy.
- Another study with a group of 25 two-year-old children whose mother had consumed ecstasy while pregnant showed poorer motor skills when compared to children whose mothers had consumed different recreational drugs.
- That said, the studies into pregnant women, ecstasy, and congenital disabilities, and other behavioral problems have been limited, and further research is needed.
What to Do if You Used MDMA (Ecstasy) While Pregnant?
You should let your doctor or midwife know immediately if you used ecstasy during your pregnancy. In that case, they will be able to provide you and your baby with extra monitoring or support when necessary.
Impact of Using Ketamine While Pregnant
Limited studies show the risk of ketamine use on the unborn baby during pregnancy. For this reason, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has not assigned a risk category to its use while pregnant, and therefore it is highly unlikely that it is safe.
Several studies have looked at the effect of ketamine on pregnant rats and their unborn babies. One 2016 study found that when consumed during pregnancy, it caused reduced neuronal development in some brain regions, while a series of studies at the Northeast Agricultural University College of Veterinary Medicine in China found signs of long-term neurocognitive abnormalities, e.g., impaired learning and memory abilities.
Postpartum Depression and Ketamine
While it’s highly recommended to avoid ketamine use while pregnant, many clinics do recognize that ketamine infusions may be beneficial in treating the effects of postpartum depression on new mothers.
Other Impacts of Psychedelics While Pregnant
In less obvious ways, psychedelic use can be linked to pregnancy difficulties. Pregnant women who take psychedelics may lead hazardous lifestyles, endangering both the mother and her unborn child’s health. This should be taken very seriously.
Psychedelics While Breastfeeding
It is well known that drugs can pass from the mother to baby through breastmilk, and the general medical advice is to avoid consumption. However, the extent depends on the type of drug and the dosage. Many studies report that women should not take illegal drugs while breastfeeding, while other anecdotal reports cite that microdosing magic mushrooms might be beneficial for women suffering from postpartum depression.
What About Cannabis and Alcohol
People who use psychedelics may also use other drugs like alcohol or marijuana; the effects of both on pregnancy have been heavily researched. Prenatal marijuana exposure has been linked to premature births and low birth weight, whereas alcohol usage during pregnancy puts the child at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome, miscarriage, and stillbirth.
Most women will be offered a scan at 20 weeks of pregnancy as part of their standard antenatal care to check for congenital disabilities and monitor the baby’s progress.
It’s important for you and your baby to tell your doctor or midwife as soon as possible if you consumed psychedelics while pregnant. They’ll be able to provide you with additional monitoring or care if necessary. Or if you’re considering taking psychedelics or other types of drugs without the consent of your doctor, the overwhelming advice from medical and scientific fields is to avoid everything.
Frequently Asked Questions About Psychedelics And Pregnancy
We’ve gathered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding using psychedelics while pregnant.
What if I Used Psychedelics Earlier in My Pregnancy?
Many women are unaware they are pregnant for a few weeks or even months. Unfortunately, this may mean you consumed psychedelics before you even knew you were pregnant. If this is the case, don’t panic, but do contact your doctor or midwife and be honest so that they can offer you advice and support.
Is It True That Using Psychedelics During Pregnancy Can Result in Birth Defects?
During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a baby's body and most internal organs are created. Exposure to recreational drugs is more likely to result in birth abnormalities during this time. As we’ve discovered above, limited research has been conducted, so it is currently not clear whether taking psychedelics during pregnancy causes birth abnormalities in the infant. That said, there are some studies (cited above) showing babies delivered to mothers who used psychedelics during pregnancy having birth defects; however, whether the defects were caused by psychedelic use during pregnancy or by other circumstances.
Is It Possible That Using Psychedelics During Pregnancy Will Result in a Miscarriage?
There is limited research to prove whether or not psychedelics during pregnancy will result in a miscarriage. According to scientific sources, women who use LSD during fetal development may be more prone to miscarriage or premature labor and delivery; however, further research is needed to confirm this. Quick answer: Do not use psychedelics or any other recreational drug your during pregnancy.
Is There Any Danger to My Child if the Father Did Psychedelics?
While one study mentioned above cited no causal relationship, there has been limited research into whether the father's usage of psychedelics can affect the infant through sperm effects. There is a need for more research into the impact of drug and medicine use in men during the period leading up to conception.