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Mary x Me: What’s the Deal With Cannabis Use During Pregnancy?

In the age of legalization, seasoned users and the “cannacurious” alike are on a quest to learn more about the plant. At Allume, we fully commit to sharing informative content to demystify the complexities of cannabis. Mary x Me is a new column on the Collective in which we address your burning questions about weed from a female perspective. We’re talking womxnhood, entrepreneurship, strain suggestions and more! Through research and the insights of industry professionals, Mary x Me serves to educate and elevate.  

Submit your question here to be featured. 

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Anonymous: Can you tell me more about cannabis and pregnancy? It’s very taboo.

No doubt, using cannabis during pregnancy is still considered controversial. Medical reports suggest it can trigger a miscarriage, harm the fetus and cause permanent damage, among other risks. However, there isn’t enough research to fully corroborate these claims, so we’re stuck in a grey area. All one can do is amass research and think critically about how organizations have gone about conducting studies; many haven’t considered important factors that could affect findings.

Let’s take a look at the purported benefits and drawbacks by addressing some key questions.

Can cannabis treat morning sickness?

Anecdotal evidence suggests cannabis can reduce nausea associated with morning sickness. According to a 2003 study, many pregnant women turned to cannabis after experiencing little to no relief from traditional antiemetics. A significant portion reported that cannabis helped reduce the severity and duration of nausea.

A 2006 study on the efficacy of cannabis against morning sickness also has supportive claims:

“While 59 (77%) of the respondents who had been pregnant had experienced nausea and/or vomiting of pregnancy, 40 (68%) had used cannabis to treat the condition, and of these respondents, 37 (over 92%) rated cannabis as extremely effective or effective. Our findings support the need for further investigations into cannabis therapy for severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.”

In sum, there’s a strong case in favour of cannabis treating morning sickness, but as we address more questions, it becomes a bit more complicated.

Isn’t smoking while pregnant dangerous?

Smoking cannabis, or any substance during pregnancy, is inadvisable. Beyond the increased risk of respiratory problems, smoking also increases carbon monoxide in the blood, which reduces blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity to the fetus. However, it’s important to note that subjects in many studies focusing on this particular issue were also smoking tobacco during pregnancy. In an article published earlier this year from Medical News Today, “The researchers cautioned that it was difficult to separate the effects of smoking marijuana and tobacco. People often use the substances together, and tobacco can cause pregnancy complications.”

One might think a loophole would be to vaporize or consume edibles. While not being combusted, THC is still crossing the placenta to the baby, and those effects, both short and long term, are still to be determined.

Does one risk premature birth?

Although it’s not known whether different consumption methods cause or exacerbate developmental issues, several reports have found that regular use of cannabis during pregnancy may be associated with increased risk for low birth weight, pre-term labour, and stillbirth.

Medical News Today cites, “A meta-analysis of 24 studies involving pregnant women, marijuana use, and birth outcomes found a connection between low birth weight and maternal marijuana use. Reduced birth weight is associated with low oxygen levels, difficulty maintaining body temperature, and breathing problems, among other complications.”

If a mother chooses to breastfeed, will her baby ingest any THC?

The short answer is yes. A cannabis guide by the Government of Canada states outlines that THC accumulates in fatty tissues, such as breast tissue, and is thus metabolized by the baby.

But how much is ingested? Very little data exists on the exact levels of THC, but one 1970s study found that in monkeys, only 0.2% was traced in the breast milk.

Furthermore, the 2017 book Medication and Mothers’ Milk points out, “It is generally accepted that all medications transfer into human milk to some degree, although it is almost always quite low. Only rarely does the amount transferred into milk produce clinically relevant doses in the infant.”

What about neurological disorders?

Both adults and growing fetuses have endocannabinoid systems. However, the mechanics and functions differ for each. Little is known about the unique functions of cannabinoid receptors in the fetal nervous system, but a 2016 study gathered enough human data to suggest “Long-term and heavy cannabis use during pregnancy can impair brain maturation and predispose the offspring to neurodevelopmental disorders.”

These findings point to:

  • Problems understanding, learning, remembering or succeeding at school;
  • Hyperactivity, inattentiveness or impulsive behaviour;
  • Increased risk of depression or anxiety.

While this is cause for concern, firm conclusions cannot be drawn since there are no follow-up studies. Many remain open-ended and cautious because dedicated, large-scale studies on cannabis and pregnancy do not exist. It seems there are simply too many ethical issues.

Other factors need to be taken into consideration: women who smoke or ingest cannabis during pregnancy may also use other illicit drugs. This presents a challenge when trying to interpret the effects of cannabis in isolation. Furthermore, socioeconomic status, family structure and management of the mother’s mental health play a role in the long-term
neurodevelopment of children.

What to do if you’re considering using pot while prego?

First off, take some time to dig a little deeper. In addition to continuing research efforts, chat with cannamoms! You can turn to online communities that openly discuss the subject without judgment, such as SheCann and CannaMama. And of course, speak with medical professionals who have experience prescribing cannabis.

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Allume is not certified or in any position to offer medical advice. We conduct research and deliver information from credible sources.  Please consult with a medical professional to see if cannabis is right for you. 

Posted in Mary x Me

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