Marijuana Use In Pregnancy
One of the more controversial topics of discussion in the birth and parenting community of late has been the use of marijuana and marijuana-based substances during pregnancy. With the legalization of recreational use in Massachusetts on the dawn, discussions abound with big opinions on both sides of the highly polarizing argument.
Women want to know:
- Is it a safe alternative to many of the drugs prescribed for various pregnancy ailments?
- Can it be used during breastfeeding?
- What are the risks?
- And since it’s legal, can I use it without repercussions from the medical community?
Since marijuana is now legal in many states, many people assume that it is therefore considered safe. Women who have decided to use marijuana during pregnancy have reported that it is an effective remedy for everything from morning sickness to back pain. The internet is filling more and more all the time with anecdotal reports from parents claiming that they used marijuana during pregnancy and turned out to have a healthy child.
But unfortunately, anecdotal reports simply do not give us enough conclusive information to say for certain that it is safe for use during pregnancy. More research is needed. Yet researching marijuana use in pregnancy is more difficult than it sounds.
It is unethical to knowingly expose a patient, including a fetus, to a substance that may have unknown risks. Due to the ethical complications of such a study, it may not be done – at least not any time soon. The only way to compile research would be to follow women who admit to marijuana use during their pregnancies and document their outcomes.
But here again, this presents a few problems.
There are still many in the medical field who will report a woman to CPS (Child Protective Services) if they admit to using marijuana while pregnant. Women are understandably scared to share this information with their providers, so we really don’t know how prevalent it is or if there were any side effects from their use.
It gets even more complicated when we start trying to decide if marijuana based substances are safe as well, including CBD products that do not contain the psychoactive THC component. Is CBD safe in pregnancy?
We really don’t know.
Pharmaceuticals that are prescribed during pregnancy have well known and documented risks and benefits, giving doctors a confidence about prescribing them. Pharmaceuticals are somewhat predictable. Doctors are more comfortable prescribing a drug whose risks are known and documented that they are with “allowing” a woman to use marijuana, whose risks are still widely unknown.
So, is it safe?
Well, the jury is out, simply because there is not enough evidence about marijuana use in pregnancy. It’s starting to come out more and more that pregnant women have been using marijuana safely for many years. That’s not to say it is unsafe – but it’s not to say it’s not either! It just means we need more data to draw any sort of evidence-based conclusions.
What about breastfeeding? Here again, we must wait for data to say for sure. We do know that THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, has been found in the breast milk of mothers who were using marijuana while breastfeeding. What sort of effect does that have on the nursing baby? We really cannot be sure.
As a doula, I tend to work with a population that values a more natural lifestyle. Some parents argue that marijuana is a plant, and therefore it’s safe for consumption and use. But please know that just because it’s a plant doesn’t mean it’s risk-free, and particularly during pregnancy, caution is prudent.
So for now, it’s up to you to make the decisions best for you or to hold off completely. Until there is more research showing that it is a safe alternative, it is considered best practice to avoid it during pregnancy.
For additional information, please check out the following:
Professional Survey of Medical Use of Marijuana https://www.scribd.com/document/241019203/Medicinal-Use-of-Cannabis-Aviva-Tracy-Romm
Cristen Pascucci of Birth Monopoly and Birth Allowed Radio interviews Heather S. Thompson PhD Marijuana and Pregnancy: http://birthmonopoly.com/ep-15/
CDC Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/factsheets/pregnancy.htm
ACOG American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Marijuana-and-Pregnancy?IsMobileSet=false