Are Medical Marijuana and Pregnancy Safe?
Gradually medical cannabis is gaining public acceptance. An estimated three million Americans carry a medical marijuana card in 31 legal states. More and more people use it for both medical or non-medical purposes. With valid safety concerns for special groups we must ask the question “can you smoke weed if you’re pregnant”?
Frequency of Marijuana Use in Pregnancy
According to a research letter published in JAMA, “marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in pregnancy.” Between 2002 and 2012, 14.6% of pregnant adolescents in the United States reported using medical marijuana in the past month. Still, this figure is thought to be lower than the actual number due to the limitations of self-reported surveys. Social desirability bias surrounding marijuana may also play a factor.
Also, the study reported a significant increase in marijuana use among pregnant populations over the past five years. With so many pregnant women using weed, it is essential to know if marijuana use in pregnancy is safe. Also vital is knowing if it carries dire consequences for the fetus or the mother.
Several Questions, Fewer Answers
Medical marijuana and pregnancy is a topic shrouded in debate. There is no clear-cut evidence in support of or against the use of pot in pregnancy. Due to the delicate nature of pregnancy, however, obstetricians and gynecologists generally advise against marijuana use in pregnant women.
Still, many people ask questions that may be difficult to answer. People inquire if it’s the marijuana itself that is dangerous or the smoked forms. Perhaps, taking marijuana edible would pose no threat to the fetus.
Some people think smoking marijuana and pregnancy should be safe since many states have legalized medical weed. It has highly potent nausea fighting properties. This property may be a large motivation behind the widespread use of marijuana among pregnant women. Many women use it to control the early morning nausea and vomiting that’s common in pregnancy.
An enduring example is the case of thalidomide, a drug that was once considered a wonder drug. The drug was also commonly used for treating morning sickness in pregnant women. Tragically, the drug led to severe limb damage in thousands of newborns before the drug company withdrew it. While weed is incapable of such a level of damage, mothers must use caution in pregnancy (as with all drugs).
What Does Research Say about Florida Medical Marijuana and Pregnancy?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any prenatal marijuana exposure may be harmful to the developing fetus. They base this decision on a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The authors linked pediatric exposure to marijuana edibles to a spike in child emergency department visits in Denver, Colorado.
Low Birth Rate
Perhaps, the most common adverse effect related to marijuana use in pregnancy is low birth weight. A 24 study meta-analysis (Gunn et al.) concluded that weed use could increase the risk of low birth weight.
Also, it may increase anemia in the mother. Other researchers have arrived at a similar conclusion. A common theme is that most of the studies rely on self-reported data. These may fail to account for the use of other drugs with weed.
There are also studies suggesting pot use in pregnancy may be harmful to the health of a developing unborn fetus. THC, one of the primary active components in cannabis can cross the placenta, and thus, affect the fetus.
Already, there is enough evidence to show that excessive use of high-THC marijuana among teenagers could affect brain development. Such teens may have a lower IQ and inferior problem-solving skills when compared with their counterparts. Some researchers suggest that babies exposed to marijuana during pregnancy can show the same effect.
Some studies further conclude that fetal exposure to marijuana could lead to delays in child development. Such children may also experience problems with attention, impulse control, and general executive functioning. However, the evidence presented by such studies is far from clear.
Researching the Effects of Smoking Marijuana While Pregnant
Available health care data concerning the safety of marijuana in pregnancy is quite sparse. There is a moral concern about the safety of the baby and mother. Therefore, there are no ethical boards that would approve to conduct such research. Thus, researchers are limited to studying the effects of marijuana on pregnant women who self-report cannabis use.
An obvious challenge is a fact that many women would not want to inform their doctor that they’re using marijuana. Even when doctors are aware, the self-reported nature of the data makes it hard to trust.
Weed Plus Other Drugs
Most pregnant marijuana users use other drugs, as well, which makes it a challenge to isolate specific health effects caused by weed use in pregnancy. One can see why it’s hard to arrive at a definite conclusion. We need certainty about the impact of prenatal marijuana use on the newborn.
Conner et al. did a systematic review and meta-analysis of maternal marijuana use and adverse neonatal outcomes. They concluded that “maternal marijuana use in pregnancy is not an independent risk factor for adverse neonatal outcomes.” The results found adverse outcomes related to maternal marijuana use and same-time tobacco use confuses the results. In simple terms, marijuana may not be directly responsible for most of the harmful effects observed in these babies.
There are limitations surrounding cannabis and pregnancy research. These limitations mean we have little knowledge about how the various forms of cannabis could potentially affect the unborn baby. Most of the studies cited a focus on smoked forms as it is the most common method of consumption. With edibles becoming more and more popular, there is a need for more research into the field.
How about While Breastfeeding?
It’s not hard to guess that there’s a shortage of precise knowledge on how cannabis can affect breastfeeding babies. However, we do know that the body’s fat cells store cannabis, and significant amounts may enter breast milk. Thus, your baby may be exposed to the pot if you take the drug while you are pregnant.
The fact of legal marijuana in Florida does not make it safe for you while you’re pregnant. The American College of Obstetricians disapproves of marijuana use during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, using marijuana, have trouble controlling your nausea and vomiting, or have other severe symptoms, see your doctor.
Concerning drug use in pregnancy, safety is more important than efficacy. For now, the safest approach would be to treat all forms of marijuana as the same, and the safest approach to drug use in pregnancy is to avoid it if you’re not sure of its effects.
Talk to your doctor before taking medical marijuana. Therefore, the most logical conclusion from the available evidence is that marijuana may not be too good for your unborn child. You could be saving yourself and your child from a lifetime of regret. They would be in the best position to advise you.