COMMENTARY | There are many things a mother who has just had a child does not want to hear when being read her newborn’s test results, but for most who avoid marijuana use during pregnancy, THC in their baby’s urine is not on their list of concerns. However, a new study by the University of North Carolina has found that even moms who have never touched the drug in their lives may be reported to child protective services after their baby tests positive for pot thanks to infant soap — as if all the chemicals that could be present in baby soap wasn’t enough to scare parents.
The study was conducted after a North Carolina hospital saw a dramatic increase in the number of infants testing positive for marijuana. The suspicion was that the tests themselves may be contaminated. Samples of clean infant urine were mixed with substances regularly used in the genital regions of infants, and it turns out minute amounts of various types of baby soap would produce a false positive for THC. Five types of soap were tested from commercial brands including two types from Johnson & Johnson, two from Aveeno, and one from CVS.
While marijuana use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is not illegal in itself unless consumption is illegal in your area, it does pose arguable health risks to your baby. Marijuana use during pregnancy may result in preterm labor, increase the risk of birth complications, birth defects, and still-birth as well as present risk of possible DNA mutation and fetal developmental delay. Use while breastfeeding can lead to decreased milk supply, weakened suckling in the baby, gross motor development delays, and DNA mutation. In both cases studies confirm that THC, or the main chemical in marijuana, does pass to your baby through breast milk or the placenta. A positive result in your baby’s urine at a hospital check isn’t enough for child abuse charges, but it will often spur investigation especially if coupled with other indicators such as poor prenatal care, a criminal record, or a history of drug use.
While as a mother I stick firmly in the advice that those who have done no wrong have nothing to fear in the case of child protective services investigations, they are still an unpleasant experience that no nervous first-time parent wants to deal with after false accusation. Luckily, the hospital in question has decided to double-check positive results from now on, but the information that something as innocent as washing your child can lead to a red flag on a drug test is a bit unsettling.