What Does Current Research Say About Cannabis Use During Pregnancy?
The topic of cannabis use during pregnancy might be one of the most sensitive subjects in the entire world of cannabis, and understandably so.
The health of the child and expecting mother is of utmost importance. For an expecting mother who uses medical cannabis, the decision to continue using cannabis as medicine can be a difficult one. Obviously cannabis can be good for the mother's wellness, but how does it affect the child?
It is estimated between 2 and 5 percent of expecting mothers admit to using cannabis while pregnant, although this number may be higher as many mothers may not want to answer this question out of fear.
There are a number of reasons why a mother would want or need to use medical cannabis during pregnancy. As with any medication taken while pregnant, medical cannabis use needs to be discussed with a medical professional, and a conscious decision made before a pregnant mother decides to use medical cannabis.
A recent study shows encouraging results, but isn't comprehensive enough
The study, published recently on National Public Radio (NPR), looked at 31 previous studies relating to pregnant women and cannabis use.
Previously, these studies associated cannabis use by pregnant mothers with lower birth weights and higher mortality rates.
However, this new study which mulled over the previous data, also figured into the results additional contributing factors such as tobacco use and alcohol use. When those contributing factors were taken into account, the study found there was no increase in mortality rates or lower birth weights with mothers that had admitted to cannabis use.
A lot of media outlets took the results of this study and ran with it. Posts such as 'cannabis use is not bad for pregnant mothers and their babies' popped up on social media channels of cannabis media outlets and cannabis supporters.
This is simply not the case. The study is a good start, and is encouraging for mothers who are exploring the idea of using medical cannabis while pregnant. But at the same time, it is not nearly as comprehensive as some are making it out to be for three main reasons:
- This study only looked at birth weights and mortality rates. It didn't look at the long term effects, if any, on the child.
- These initial studies did not focus on cannabis in particular. The question of cannabis use was one of many questions asked.
- The prior studies relied on the voluntary admission of the mother regarding their cannabis use, which can result in some mothers being mis-classified or not included in the studies, and therefore possibly skewing results.
So while this recent study is encouraging, it still needs to be taken into perspective. There's still a lot of other questions that need to be answered before final conclusions can be made.
There are countless personal stories out there of mothers using medical cannabis with no issues experienced for the child. Although meaningful, these are experiential testimonies, not scientific studies.
What do other studies say about medical cannabis use and pregnant mothers?
The second most recent significant study looking at cannabis and pregnancy was conducted by Schools of Nursing, Education, and Public Health, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1994.
The study involved two core groups of women and their children: 24 babies born to rural Jamaican mothers who consumed cannabis regularly for medical and religious purposes, and 20 babies born to rural Jamaican mothers who did not consume cannabis at all during pregnancy.
The study looked specifically at autonomic stability, quality of alertness, irritability, 'self-regulation' and how their caregivers rated the babies' demeanor.
The study evaluated the babies on day 3 and at the one-month mark. There was no apparent harm to the babies of the mothers who consumed cannabis regularly, and, these mothers scored better in the areas of how they rated the babies' demeanor.
This study is clearly not a comprehensive test, although it is one many people point to as bulletproof evidence that cannabis is OK to consume during pregnancy.
More research is clearly needed in this area to arrive at solid conclusions.
More research and constructive conversations are needed
This is a sensitive topic and issue for all of us.
I have a toddler. My wife and I had candid conversations about her using medical cannabis while she was pregnant to deal with various pains she experiences from time to time. In the end, she decided to not use cannabis while pregnant.
Making this decision thoughtfully, is a very personal decision.
And the fact of the matter is, some mothers out there need medical cannabis. An example is that of Dr. Wei-Ni Lin Curry, MA and PhD.
Dr. Wei-Ni Lin Curry documented her own experience using medical cannabis while pregnant and simultaneously battling hyperemesis gravidarum, a potentially deadly condition.
On the one hand we don't want mothers consuming things that harm their child, but on the other hand, this also needs to be responsibly balanced with medical situations like the one experienced by Dr. Wei-Ni Lin Curry.
Cannabis has been used throughout history to treat various conditions, even those commonly experienced during pregnancy and even childbirth (China and Persia).
These types of studies, can open up constructive dialogues, around important questions:
- Is cannabis really harmful to the baby and/or mother?
- Are there consumption methods that are better than others?
- What types of harm reduction techniques need to be considered by mothers who make the decision to consume?
These are questions begging to be asked, researched, and evaluated, so that the results can be released to the public to spread awareness, and facts.
Simply sticking our heads in the ground and acting like it doesn't exist, while at the same time having policies and laws in place that automatically result in authorities being contacted if a mother tests positive for THC, is a harmful, and nonproductive strategy.
The National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws (NORML) has a great reference page revealing the pros and cons of current scientific research.
What are your thoughts on cannabis use during pregnancy?
|it's harmful no matter what||
|if it involves the mother's health it's ok via certain consumption methods||
|i don't think it is harmful at all based off of experience||
|would like to see more research||