Tuesday July 12, 2016
Inquiries about cannabis consumption during pregnancy are common. On one hand, pregnant women may benefit from cannabis because it relieves pain, improves sleep and reduces nausea. On the other hand, cannabinoids may impact fetal neurological development (for better or worse) making the gamble less-than-appealing. So is it safe to consume marijuana while pregnant?
Here’s what we know.
Benefits of Consuming Cannabis While Pregnant
When women consume cannabis during pregnancy, it’s not because they’re weed hounds who cannot break the habit. More likely, women who smoke marijuana during pregnancy do so because of the benefits cannabis consumption can provide. For example, cannabis can help treat nausea and encourage calorie consumption.
Cannabis can also help reduce pain associated with carrying a human around. Back and leg pain is common among pregnant women which can cause a reduction in mobility, resulting in undue stress to both mom and baby.
Additionally, cannabis can promote restful sleep which is especially important during pregnancy. Research shows that sleep deprivation during pregnancy can cause exhaustion and irritability, and increases the likelihood of a C-section and drawn-out labor come the big day.
Finally, consuming cannabis while either pregnant or breastfeeding can help bust the blues. Because a parent’s depression can cause a child’s social, emotional and cognitive decline, keeping mom happy despite hormonal fluctuations is extremely important and cannabis can help.
Risks Associated with Cannabis Consumption During Pregnancy
Though research is limited, one recent study published in the US National Library of Medicine found that cannabinoids like THC may alter fetal neurological development as it relates to temperament, mood disorders, attention span and delinquency rates (though it notes that more research is needed to determine the correlation). The National Institute on Drug Abuse references this study and a few others when explaining the risks of prenatal cannabinoid exposure, though it’s important to note that many of the sources clump tobacco and alcohol into their results making them much less reliable.
Nevertheless, prenatal cannabis exposure is considered child abuse in many areas. In Texas, women may be charged with “distribution of a controlled substance to a minor” while Alabama laws regard it as “chemical endangerment” should an infant test positive for THC. Though the ACOG has recommended that hospitals begin with verbal and written screenings -- and to always disclose drug screenings – many hospitals still only list the test as a “standard screening” and proceed with the UA anyway. Policy varies by state so check local laws prior to childbirth if this is a concern.
Research on Prenatal Marijuana Exposure
Research on prenatal marijuana exposure is almost as varied as opinions surrounding the subject. For example, studies show a significant correlation between prenatal marijuana exposure and a lower intelligence performance at age three (though the effects were mediated when the child attended preschool), and increased hyperactivity, impulsivity and delinquency by the age of 10.
A Jamaican study suggests the opposite, stating that there were “no significant differences in developmental testing outcomes between children of marijuana-using and non-using mothers except at 30 days of age when the babies of users had more favourable scores on two clusters of the Brazelton Scales: autonomic stability and reflexes.” The study also notes a direct correlation between developmental scores and school attendance.
Other conflicts in the data also exist as explained by this summary of research literature. According to the publication, of the two major studies conducted, one notes memory deficits at 5-6 years of age while the other does not. Moreover, though the research concludes deficits in memory and verbal skills, the data does not indicate such.
Alternatives to Consider
Every pregnancy is different. While some women adore the experience, others suffer from constant pain, sleepless nights and uncontrollable stomach issues like nausea and constipation. For those looking to relieve the discomfort of pregnancy without risking a visit from CPS, consider the following:
- Reduce pain and promote restful sleep with the use of hot pads, warm baths and carefully maneuvered massages. Women should also try to maintain a healthy pregnancy weight and side-sleep on a firm mattress to reduce back and leg pain. Yoga and meditation may also help.
- Battle nausea by consuming many small meals that are low in sugar and fats, drink plenty of water, take antacids when necessary and try to keep stress to a minimum.
- Consider hiring a midwife if cannabis consumption cannot stop. Like medical doctors, midwives are certified with the state to assist with basic, low-risk births but unlike medical professionals, they do not conduct drug tests. Midwives are firm supporters of natural birth and accompany the mother during all phases of the birthing process.