Is it safe to use cannabis during pregnancy? That is a question that I see asked frequently by medical cannabis patients. Does it affect the fetus in utero and have lasting repercussions into childhood and beyond? And the answer is… nobody knows for sure due to the lack of research using pregnant women as subjects and several other confounding factors which include:
- Smoking is the delivery method used in all the research studies. The combustion found in smoke rather than the cannabinoids can impair fetal growth.
- The estimates of the extent of prenatal cannabis usage is non-existent
- Research studies exclusively evaluate the effects of THC rather than CBD or full extract cannabis
- Results may be skewed by tobacco and alcohol usage in conjunction with cannabis usage
- The majority of doctors refuse to even talk to their patients about cannabis usage during pregnancy, leaving women to draw their own conclusions
- Fear that women, especially those of color, will be criminally prosecuted and their children removed from their care if they discuss cannabis usage during pregnancy. In states where cannabis still carries a heavy stigma, it is not unusual for doctors to berate their patients who attempt to discuss its usage with them.
- Research about cannabis and pregnancy only goes back to the late 1980s
- Inconsistent data which relies on self-reporting surveys and bio-chemical analyses
And to make matters even more confusing for researchers to collect data on cannabis usage of American women during pregnancy, there are the following factors:
- The mother’s tolerance level
- The fact that cannabis is detectable for days and even weeks after she may have stopped using it
- Women often don’t know they are pregnant for several weeks. Some stop using cannabis as soon as they know they are pregnant.
- It is difficult to assess how many women are consciously using cannabis during pregnancy
Some research studies conclude that cannabis has an effect on the fetus while others do not. Potential deleterious effects of cannabis usage during pregnancy include low birth rate, increased rate of premature birth and shorter birth length. Other studies suggest that cannabis usage by the mother may affect the cognition of the fetus into childhood and beyond.
The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids was a study released by the National Academy of Sciences in 2017. This was one of the most respected studies to date. The conclusion was that smoking cannabis during pregnancy contributed to lower birth weights, although any other outcomes were uncertain. The researchers did note that the byproducts of smoking, including carbon monoxide, can impair fetal growth. It is unclear why no other safer delivery method was used for any of these studies.
A contradictory 2016 study in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology concluded that cannabis usage posed no significant risk to reduced birth weight or premature delivery. Neither was there any risk of SGA (Small for Gestational Age) or placental abruption.
Then, we have a 2013 University of Florida and Harvard University study published in Pediatrics that concluded that “prenatal cannabis exposure is associated at 10 years of age with inattention and impulsivity and with subtle learning and memory deficits.” The results suggested that while it does not appear to affect the IQ, it does seem to be a factor in the underachievement in reading and spelling of children at age 10.
However, a 1992 Canadian study from Carleton University found that prenatal cannabis usage had no measurable impact on the development of children. In fact, a 1980 Jamaican study, run by Dr. Melanie Dreher, ascertained that babies exposed to cannabis prenatally had better reflexes than those in the control group.
And to confuse you even more if you are contemplating getting pregnant, there are some sinister political ramifications in play. After Dr. Melanie Dreher found positive outcomes of prenatal cannabis usage, her results were suppressed and she lost her funding by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). They wanted the results to show that cannabis harms fetal development.
Benefits of Using Cannabis During Pregnancy
- Helps relieve nausea for those women suffering from severe and prolonged morning sickness
- Increases appetite for those with morning sickness
- Relieves anxiety, especially for first time mothers
- Relieves pain associated with pregnancy; back pain, sciatica and discomfort causing insomnia
- Best and safest sleep medicine
So, there you have it. You will have to weigh all the research and draw your own conclusion as to whether or not you choose to use cannabis during your pregnancy!
Source: Leafly.com, Consuming Cannabis During Pregnancy: Here’s What the Science Says, Alexa Peters, March 11, 2018