Marijuana While Pregnant. Is It Safe?

Marijuana While Pregnant

We all know that drinking booze and smoking tobacco during pregnancy are big no-nos.

But what about using marijuana while pregnant? Does it fall into the same bracket? Or, is marijuana actually safe to use during the pregnancy?

Let’s find out.

Controversies Around Marijuana Use During Pregnancy

When you look at the statistics, there’s an increasing number of soon-to-be moms admitting to the prenatal use of cannabis.

The vast majority of pregnant women use the herb to treat the crippling morning sickness, regulate hormone-driven mood swings, and help with running thoughts that prevent many of them from getting quality sleep they need so much during that period.

Moreover, it appears that the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a vital role in the development of the fetus. Cannabis, in turn, has over 113 cannabinoids that can improve the work of the ECS, be it in a direct or non-direct manner.

And yet, most pediatric organizations and researchers suggest that future mothers abstain from cannabis before, during, and shortly after pregnancy. They claim that marijuana can negatively affect the child’s development, contribute to lower birth weight, and compromise academic achievement of adolescents who were exposed to marijuana in the prenatal stage.

In this article, we shed light on the most popular concerns associated with marijuana use during the pregnancy and explain why the current evidence is not conclusive.

Marijuana for Morning Sickness

Why Do Women Use Marijuana During Pregnancy?

While your doctor may be unlikely to prescribe cannabis for the troubling symptoms during pregnancy, the budtender at your local dispensary might not have any problems with selling you some weed to bring you relief.

According to a recent survey of dispensaries in Colorado, 69% of the staff recommends using cannabis to treat morning sickness, 36% of which say it’s safe to use marijuana during pregnancy.

Pregnancy symptoms alleviated by cannabis include:

  • Morning sickness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pains and aches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood swings

A study published in 2015 reported that 70% of pregnant women in the United States who admitted to using cannabis believed that there was slight or no risk of harm from using the plant once or twice a week.

Why Are Researchers Concerned About Using Marijuana During Pregnancy?

While cannabis can help pregnant women alleviate their morning sickness and other pregnancy symptoms, scientists are not sure if it can benefit the child as well.

In fact, most researchers believe that marijuana isn’t good for the fetus. Here’s what we know about the potential dangers of using marijuana during pregnancy:

  • The active compounds in marijuana pass from your system to your baby’s body.
  • Smoking marijuana raises carbon monoxide levels in your blood. This can inhibit the sufficient intake of oxygen for your developing baby, affecting its growth.
  • Using marijuana during pregnancy contributes to low birth weight.
  • It can cause abnormal neurodevelopment.
  • Marijuana can compromise academic achievements scores at 14 years of age.
  • Children exposed to cannabis during pregnancy are more likely to develop psychological disorders

We took a peek at Dr. Stacey Kerr’s standpoint on using marijuana during pregnancy. In her interview with ProjectCBD, she highlights the above risks and questions the research standards used in studies that have led scientists to such conclusions.

Smoking Weed While Pregnant

Low Birth Weight & Preterm Labor

“Use of cannabis during pregnancy strongly and significantly predicted negative birth outcomes, including low birth weight (375 g/.8 lbs lighter), preterm birth, small size for gestational age, and increased admission to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).”

This is a quote from the most popular article in the medical community regarding the use of marijuana during pregnancy. Although the study had controlled for multi-substance use and socioeconomic status of their subjects, the method of data collection was questionable.

If any of the mothers admitted to using cannabis during pregnancy, their data was then collected by a public maternity hospital. These subjects were offered care through the hospital’s alcohol and drug recovery program.

Needless to say, there’s a high possibility that many soon-to-be moms didn’t tell the truth because they feared to trigger a referral to a special organization for drug abusers.

Other similar surveys seem to support this theory, as the studies showed that only 7% of pregnant women admitted to using marijuana during pregnancy, studies measuring cannabis use by self-report or urine screens indicate a range of 8% to 29%.

Inferior Neurodevelopment

A study published in 2011 found that THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain instead of the body’s natural endocannabinoids, coming up with a theory that THC can cause neurons to develop abnormally.

Interestingly, another study, published in 2015, measured the children’s ability to perceive the whole, rather than focusing only on the individual aspects (also known as Global Motion Perception or GMP). The study tested this skill in 145 4.5-year-old subjects who had been exposed to different substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, methamphetamine, and marijuana before their birth along with 25 unexposed children.

While the results showed impaired GMP by prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs, it was significantly improved by exposure to marijuana. Better yet, the children exposed to marijuana in the absence of alcohol scored almost 50% better results at the GMP test than the unexposed children.

Lower Academic Achievements

According to a research paper from 2011, “First-trimester exposure to cannabis significantly predicted poorer academic achievement scores at 14 years of age.”

The study, indeed, accounted for all the possible variables: prenatal alcohol use, tobacco, cigarettes, and other illicit substances exposure. However, the presence of the so-called mediators — the factors that must occur to cause the observed effects — makes the research method anything but accurate.

The mediators mentioned in the study were:

  • Depression at 10 years old
  • Lower than average IQ scores at the age of 6
  • Attention deficits at the age of 10
  • Early use of cannabis before the age of 14

Given the above, it was a combination of factors that caused poorer academic achievement rather than the sole use of marijuana during pregnancy.

Cannabis Effect pregnancy

Increased Likelihood of Developing Mental Illnesses

It’s true that people with underlying mental disorders can develop illnesses over time, and this consequence has long been linked to smoking marijuana during pregnancy. Harvard University and the Boston VA examined the possible link between the development of schizophrenia in teens whose parents smoked marijuana.

They looked at 282 subjects from the New York and Boston metropolitan areas, gathering data on 1,168 first-degree relatives and a total of 4,291 relatives. They noted down information regarding the family’s history of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorders, as well as cannabis use.

Here’s how they concluded their research:

“Having an increased familial risk for schizophrenia is the underlying basis for schizophrenia in these samples — not the cannabis use.”

Marijuana While Pregnant: Is It Safe?

In all honesty, we can’t tell it right now.

Many soon-to-be moms use marijuana to deal with unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, especially during the first trimester. Some of them claim their ‘weed-affected’ children have turned out smarter, calmer, and have shown superior cognitive functioning when compared to their ‘unaffected’ siblings.

Still, parental, medical, and pediatric organizations around the world prefer to play the safe card by saying that cannabis is actually harmful to the fetus albeit it can help women deal with their pregnancy struggles. If this is to be your first child, then you might want to play the safe card, too.

However, the research that has given rise to this unpopular opinion on using cannabis during pregnancy is often based on inaccurate methodologies, most of which have been highlighted by Dr. Stacey Kerr, MD. On top of that, there are contradictory studies showing no negative impact on the development of children whose mothers have been using cannabis during pregnancy; some of them even stay in stark contrast to the previous findings.

What’s your experience with using marijuana during pregnancy, ladies? Are you on the green side of the future motherhood?

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