Pamela is newly pregnant with her third child. She and her husband think this is going to be their last one because she is having a dreadful time with nausea – morning sickness that lasts all day long. She knows all the tricks. Saltines by her bedside, taking Vitamin B6 and B12, and eating frequently even though her stomach is queasy. She tried ginger. She tried acupuncture. She considered hypnosis.
None of it is working, and the added stress of two little ones who still need her attention is making her pregnancy a miserable experience. She really wants this baby, but lately she’s been having guilty doubts about whether it’s worth going through all the nausea and vomiting.
Pamela consulted her physician. She was offered some prescription medications – droperidol (an antipsychotic), metoclopramide (causes drowsiness & dizziness), Benedryl (drowsiness), or Zofran. Although her doctor reassured her about side effects and effects on her baby, she really did not want to take a pharmaceutical if she could avoid it.
Pamela had used cannabis occasionally for many years. It relieved her stress at the end of the day when the kids were finally in bed and she had time to herself. It helped ease some pain she had in the past, and aided sleep when she had short bouts of insomnia. She knew it could help with nausea, appetite, and stress, but she did not know if it was safe to use it while pregnant. So she searched online for facts.
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Online, Pamela found conflicting information. Some sites said it was perfectly fine to use cannabis while pregnant. Others warned of brain damage, early labors, babies with failure to thrive, and other dire consequences. There seemed to be some research on the subject, but was it well done? Was it reliable? How was she to dig down and find the real story?
I am a family physician and have attended hundreds of births during my career. I live in an area of the country (Northern California) where cannabis is used by many of my patients, and when they discovered that they could be honest with me about their use my prenatal records became more complete.
Many mothers were using it for nausea and for stress relief. Some used it because it was simply part of their lifestyle. We discussed this during their visits, and I was clear with them that I honestly did not know if cannabis caused harm because the scientific research was still incomplete.
In my experience, however, I had not seen complications from cannabis – but I had seen complications from alcohol and other drugs. We discussed the difference between ‘use’ and ‘abuse.’ If they planned to use it I, encouraged conscious use; microdosing to treat the need without overusing.
However, my personal and professional experience was not enough to rely on as a source of information for my patients. I began a search and review of the literature, reading the published peer-reviewed articles, and evaluating the study designs and the outcomes.
In this article, we are going to look at the facts. We will look at the research and outcomes, and evaluate their worth. We will look at populations that used cannabis during pregnancy and see how their children are doing now. The information shared may help you make your own decision about using cannabis during pregnancy.
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It is important to remember that pregnancy recommendations regarding what to eat, what to drink, what medications to take, and any other outside influences are fraught with caution and fear. If the child does not turn out ‘right,’ who’s fault is it? Pointing a finger of blame can lead to guilt, to lawsuits, and/or a lifetime of regret. Simply being pregnant and carrying a baby for nine months creates unavoidable risks for both mother and baby. But for some, there is no end to the perceived risks or possible harms a mother may cause an unborn child.
Note: The use patterns considered here are limited to well-considered, clearly needed uses of cannabis. This includes using the herb or its constituents for medical reasons such as nausea, pain, sleep, or possibly for stress relief. I encourage any cannabis use to be done consciously, with respect for its power as medicine.
What I Tell My Patients
After all this reading, reviewing, and surveying, I was left with the following points I could share with my patients:
- Cannabis can be abused. Don’t abuse it.
- Smoke is an irritant on the airways. If you wish to inhale, vaporize flowers or use an alternate form of the medicine.
- Federal law prohibits cannabis
- Hospitals, physicians, and Social Services can have punitive responses to parents who test positive for THC.
- Babies exposed to cannabis during gestation may weigh less than babies not exposed.
And if you choose to use cannabis:
- Be clear about why you are using it and re-evaluate those reasons each time
- Avoid smoking – vaporize herb or use non-smoked products from trusted sources
- Use organic herb and concentrates that are clear of chemicals and pesticides
- Be aware of the cannabinoid content and microdose medicine to efficacy
- Keep your children safe from accidental or passive exposure
- Avoid dabs, oils, and edibles with unknown content
To read the complete story from Dr. Kerr, continue reading at Project CBD.