Marijuana and pregnancy is a hot topic because of the recent legalization of weed in several states. However, although it is a medication, not all pharmaceuticals or natural herbal remedies are recommended to pregnant women, and marijuana use during pregnancy is an action that is advised against.
Although there was a study in Jamaica by an American nurse that made headlines in the early 1990s, the truth is that the jury is still out with marijuana and pregnancy effects, and this is why the current warning is to err on the side of caution.
Part of the problem is that many studies have not taken into account that women smoking marijuana during pregnancy might also be doing other harmful activities such as smoking cigarettes, according to Forbes.
Also, due to the stigma of using marijuana during pregnancy, it is difficult for researchers to know how many women are actually using cannabis while pregnant.
For this reason, it is assumed as of 2016 that between two and 27 percent of pregnant women have smoked marijuana or used another medical cannabis substance.
In addition to stigma, women smoking weed while pregnant may be worried about breaking the law. According to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at University of Washington, it is clearly stated in the first paragraph that “we don’t know enough yet to be certain about all of the possible risks” about marijuana and pregnancy.
Regardless, the laws of each state tend to be strict where it concerns a fetus and a mother smoking marijuana before birth or during breastfeeding.
The exception to the rule about prohibiting marijuana during pregnancy is the state of Oregon. On official websites about the recreational use of marijuana during pregnancy, the state of Oregon suggests consulting with a doctor first.
Interestingly, according to NORML, in the state of Colorado where marijuana is legalized for recreational use, the current laws about marijuana and pregnancy prohibit women from smoking weed if pregnant. This is true even if marijuana is a prescription drug and the pregnant woman has cannabis under the drug’s legal status.
There are also several problems that can occur legally because of marijuana use during pregnancy or after while breastfeeding. For example, in Colorado, the mother may be subjected to a drug test after giving birth, and if she tests positive for marijuana, that information is automatically turned over to legal authorities to criminally prosecute the mother.
The idea of using marijuana during pregnancy often comes from the need to treat the symptoms of the pregnancy itself. For example, one expectant mother wrote to the Cannabist for advice for anxiety symptoms during pregnancy and wanted to know if marijuana was legal as an anxiety medication during pregnancy in Colorado.
Some pregnant mothers ask if there is advice online for avoiding medications like Ondansetron that are used for nausea and if the meds can be substituted with marijuana. This is especially true if the Ondansetron is not working to treat pregnancy nausea symptoms.
There is also a lot of confusion for pregnant women that were previously prescribed cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabinol for nausea. The confusion may come about because the non-THC cannabidiol oil is sometimes used topically and tetrahydrocannabinol is a pill sold under the name Dronabinol or Marinol.
Although the studies about the effects of marijuana and pregnancy are inconclusive as of 2017, there was a study in the 1990s that seemed to confirm that marijuana was not harmful to fetal development — and may have been helpful.
The historic study many people reference that came from Jamaica was conducted by Melanie Dreher. The first study from Dreher, trained as a nurse, was published in 1991 and detailed her research in Jamaica to study the link, if any, between marijuana and pregnancy.
Dreher’s study, published in the West Indian Medical Journal, stated that “results show no significant differences in developmental testing outcomes between children of marijuana-using and non-using mothers.”
The one exception that Dreher found was not bad news at all. In fact, Dreher found that mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy had babies that had more favorable scores at the age of one month with “two clusters of the Brazelton Scales: autonomic stability and reflexes.”
In 1994, Dreher published another study in the Journal of Pediatrics called “Prenatal marijuana exposure and neonatal outcomes in Jamaica: an ethnographic study.”
In this 1994 study, Dreher re-tested children of women using marijuana and those not using marijuana during pregnancy for the Brazelton Scales in regards to autonomic stability and reflexes.
This time, Dreher conducted the studies on children ages one-month and three-months-old and concluded with the following positive results about smoking marijuana during pregnancy.
“The neonates of heavy-marijuana-using mothers had better scores on autonomic stability, quality of alertness, irritability, and self-regulation and were judged to be more rewarding for caregivers.”
[Feature Image by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]