Using Marijuana During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?
Congratulations! You’re pregnant!
In nine months or less, depending on when you’re reading this, a bouncing bundle of joy will enter your life and change it in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.
In fact, it’s probably already changed your normal morning routine.
Nausea. Vomiting. Yep, that’s right: we’re talking about morning sickness. Which is usually pretty standard.
But if your symptoms are extremely severe, you might be considering using medical marijuana to alleviate them.
But is it safe to use marijuana during pregnancy? What are the risks, and are they worth taking?
When Morning Sickness Turns Really Ugly
50 to 90 percent of women experience nausea and vomiting during the early stages of their pregnancy. Not exactly something you’d voluntarily sign up for, but hey, you’re having a baby! You know it comes with the territory. And at least it’s manageable.
However, up to 2% of pregnant women suffer from a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum or HG.
HG is not like your typical morning sickness. The vomiting and nausea are so severe that you can become dehydrated and start losing weight. This could potentially harm you and your developing infant.
In addition to the physical stress, the condition can be mentally and emotionally taxing, interfering with your ability to perform your daily activities. It’s not uncommon for pregnant women with HG to experience depression and PTSD.
Now that is a price that is far too high to pay.
What About Medical Marijuana? Can It Help Treat HG?
Stories like this one from the Daily Beast seem to suggest “yes.” After all, many MMJ patients use marijuana to treat their nausea, pain, anxiety and depression.
In fact, the New York Times reported back in February 2017 that the number of women using marijuana during pregnancy is going up. Why? Mostly because they’re trying to treat their nausea and vomiting symptoms.
But what do medical organizations have to say about using marijuana during pregnancy?
We have to be honest: the official word isn’t great.
Medical Organizations Tell Women “Don’t Use Marijuana During Pregnancy” Because the Risk Level is Unknown
Unfortunately, little research has been done on whether or not medical marijuana is safe for pregnant women.
Researchers can’t conduct randomized controlled drug studies on pregnant women because it would be unethical to expose an unborn baby to something that’s potentially harmful.
For this reason, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) both recommend that expecting mothers refrain from marijuana use.
The New York Times Report On the Risks of Marijuana for Pregnant Women
The report covered a Pittsburgh study of pregnant women who smoked one or more joints a day during their first trimester.
They found that:
- When the children turned 6, they had more difficulty learning reading and listening skills.
- At age 10, they had difficulty focusing and were more impulsive.
- At age 14, they scored lower in reading, math, and spelling than the children of mothers who didn’t smoke.
Other studies show that marijuana can impact the brain development of fetuses 18 to 22 weeks old. That might be because our body’s endocannabinoid system plays a major role in managing our brain functions. Our brains already produce their own natural cannabinoids, such as anandamide.
If marijuana’s cannabinoids (THC, CBD, and others) make their way into a developing fetus, that could affect a child’s brain development.
There’s also concern that marijuana use could affect the birth weight of babies, which is the same reason why pregnant mothers are also encouraged not to smoke cigarettes.
BUT…There are Two Major Problems With Medical Marijuana and Pregnancy Studies
- Because it’s unethical for researchers to give marijuana to pregnant women and test the results, they have to rely on either animal studies, which aren’t 100% reliable, or reports from pregnant women themselves, which aren’t 100% reliable either.
- Pregnant women who roll and smoke joints are more likely to also use tobacco and alcohol. That makes it difficult to know for certain whether marijuana is directly responsible for these prenatal development issues. It could be another substance altogether.
These Women Used Marijuana While Pregnant and Claim Their Children Are Fine
After publishing their initial story, the New York Times received hundreds of stories from women who used cannabis during their pregnancy. They published a follow-up article highlighting several of these accounts.
Here’s what some of these women had to say:
- Margaret was taking Zofran to treat her nausea, but it felt too unnatural. She turned to marijuana instead. She reported that her children had a healthy birth weight and showed no noticeable negative effects.
- Diana Donath used cannabis while pregnant, and reported that not only did her two children have a normal birth weight, they also had an “above-average” intelligence. Both children are college graduates.
- Jane, mother of three, was a pharmaceutical researcher who extensively studied the effects of marijuana on pregnant women. At the end, she concluded that the risks associated with marijuana couldn’t be any worse than taking Zofran. She started using marijuana and later gave birth to a healthy daughter, who Jane claims is “her smartest.”
Sooooo…Is It Okay to Use Marijuana During Pregnancy?
Obviously, we can’t say with 100% certainty that it’s safe for you to use marijuana if you’re pregnant. But if you’re thinking about it, here’s what we suggest:
Talk to your doctor about it
We know this might be scary, especially if you want to avoid getting a lecture or are afraid of getting reported to Child Protective Services (which is an unfortunate possibility). However, if you’re having that conversation with the doctor who recommended or prescribed your medical marijuana use, you probably don’t have to worry about that too much.
But if it’s a non-recommending doctor, calmly explain your reasons why you want to try medical marijuana and ask them, given your medical history, if there are any exceptional risks that you should be aware of.
Do your research
Make the time to find reputable studies on the subject of marijuana and pregnancy. There’s lots of information on the web; some good and some not so good. Be discerning and make sure that any claims you read are backed up by evidence.
Remember that the decision is yours alone
Medical professionals can only advise you on the best decision to make. Ultimately, you have to weigh the risks and make a decision based on what you believe/feel is right for you and your baby.
Do think that medical marijuana is safe for pregnant women? Have you ever used medical marijuana while you were pregnant? If so, what was the outcome? Please share your story with us on any of our social media accounts listed above.
And, as always, if you have a qualifying condition and don’t yet have a Florida medical marijuana card, there’s no reason to keep suffering. Schedule an appointment.