Is Marijuana Use Safe for Pregnant Women?
Most mothers remember lightheaded nausea that accompanies the first trimester of pregnancy. Also referred to as morning sickness, this nausea can hit at any time of the day. For the majority of pregnant women, morning sickness isn’t too severe and goes away by the thirteenth week of pregnancy.
But for some, morning sickness is more challenging. Severe nausea and dizziness can result in vomiting and fainting. In rare cases, women can have trouble keeping food and water down, leading to weight loss for the mother and baby.
Expectant mothers are left wondering what to do to find relief. Visiting the doctor's office will generally yield simple measures that provide some level of relief. These include things like avoiding an empty stomach, taking in fluids in small quantities throughout the day, and trying ginger, acupuncture, and other beneficial supplements.
With limited effective treatments for morning sickness, some women are turning to cannabis for relief. Marijuana is a well-known antiemetic and appetite stimulant. For cancer patients, medical marijuana can make a huge difference in their overall quality of life. These benefits are why many pregnant women consider using cannabis for morning sickness.
Morning sickness is one of the most common challenges faced during pregnancy.
But there is one problem: there has not been enough research to determine if cannabis or any of its constituents are safe for use during pregnancy.
THC is the compound in cannabis that has demonstrated potential at boosting appetite and reducing nausea. However, according to findings from animal studies, THC can cross over the placenta and impact fetal brain development.
In line with these concerns, the FDA issued a warning to consumers, strongly advising “against the use of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and marijuana in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.”
But with the rapid increase in cannabis availability, it appears that this warning is falling upon deft ears. According to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, self-reported cannabis use during pregnancy has increased from 3% of women in 2002 to 5% in 2016.
The exact reason for this increase in use has not been examined, but the wider availability of cannabis might play a role. Additionally, the marijuana industry appears to be recommending marijuana for morning sickness.
In a study of 400 marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, 69% recommended that a pregnant woman with morning sickness use cannabis products as a treatment. When comparing medical marijuana dispensaries to recreational marijuana dispensaries, more medical dispensary agents recommended cannabis for use during pregnancy. 36% of dispensary agents purported that cannabis use was safe during pregnancy.
And herein lies the problem. There is not enough research to confidently state that cannabis use is (or isn’t) safe during pregnancy. It is important for pregnant women to speak with their doctors if they are experiencing morning sickness or any other complications to determine the correct treatment.
Limited studies suggest that cannabis use during the first trimester may be involved in deficits later in life, including troubles with focus and impulse control. There is also research finding marijuana use to be tied to preterm labor and low birth weight. And animal studies have demonstrated changes in neuronal development with marijuana use.
But none of these studies have conclusively proven that cannabis consumption was the cause of any of these abnormalities. Nor do animal studies provide proof that the same thing will happen in humans.
There is simply not enough research about using marijuana during pregnancy to be able to give any definitive advice. When it comes down to it, it is up to an individual to decide what to put into their bodies, even when they’re pregnant.
But no matter what a pregnant woman chooses to do, they ought to talk to their doctor first. Some people may decide that the benefits outweigh the risks—but it is vital that women understand that there are risks involved. And we don’t fully know what they are.