Marijuana use during pregnancy has doubled since 2009 and has gathered more legitimacy through legalization and decriminalization throughout the world. New evidence disputes the long-held belief that prenatal cannabis exposure affects cognitive development, meaning the behavioral, psychological, and intellectual issues exhibited by children exposed to marijuana during pregnancy are not necessarily caused by marijuana. However, another recent study revealed that by the age of nine, children exposed to cannabis in utero exhibited psychotic styles of behavior, and experienced sleep, social, and attention problems. Perhaps the biggest problem here is the amount conflicting information available, which makes it easy to find whatever argument you like to support your view on this topic, or any for that matter. And perhaps also, it is that cloud of uncertainty created by so many conflicting studies which suggest it’s better to play it safe than sorry with weed and pregnancy. Despite the all the conflicting information, what we do know is that THC – the psychoactive chemical in weed – does cross into the placenta and the fetus’s brain. We know how THC can affect us adults, is it sensible to assume it has no effect on the development of an unborn child?
The medical community discourages marijuana use during pregnancy and whilst attempting conception. The potential effects it can have on a pregnancy include:
Low Birth Weight
Small Head Circumference
Low Resistance to Infection
This last point, ectopic pregnancy, provides the strongest evidence to date against the use of marijuana during pregnancy.
What is Ectopic Pregnancy?
Instead of developing within the womb as normal, an ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg implants elsewhere, often within the fallopian tubes. As the fallopian tubes are not large enough to carry an embryo to full term, the result is typically a miscarriage, and the mother potentially bleeding out.
One in 80 women will experience an ectopic pregnancy, though fortunately this is often detected between the four to twelve week mark. Symptoms include single-side abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, bowel pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, and shoulder tip pain. Whilst these symptoms can be familiar with any normal pregnancy, shoulder tip pain is the biggest indicator of an ectopic occurrence.
Shoulder tip pain is experienced at the point where the shoulder meets the arm. Doctors don’t know exactly why it happens, but in pregnancies, it often occurs when lying down. The theory is that internal bleeding from the ectopic pregnancy aggravates a nerve located in the diaphragm. This nerve irritation is thought to trigger pain sensations in the shoulder blade.
How does marijuana influence ectopic pregnancies?
The biological process of pregnancy relies on a series chemical interactions within the body to generate each part of the process. The problem lies in THC resembling another naturally occurring chemical called anandamide, which is integral for the placement of the embryo. Anandamide would normally bind with specific cells, but THC disrupts the binding process, which can lead to a lack of required cells performing their function of directing the embryo. Therefore, the embryo lodges in the wrong place, creating an ectopic pregnancy.
Minimise the toxins
Despite the view of the medical professions and the community has in general towards using marijuana in pregnancy, whatever reasons you might have for using it are your choice, and no-one has the right to pass judgement. If you decide to use weed during pregnancy though, avoid smoking the plant itself or any concentrates – this minimises toxic carbon monoxide entering the body. Eating a concentrate or edible is the least toxic ingestion method, but takes time to achieve an effect. For an instant effect, vaporizing a CO2 oil concentrate is the safest option. However, avoid vaporizing butane hash oil (BHO) concentrates as the butane can leach into the product. Research also indicates BHO contains carcinogens.
CBD – An Alternative Option
Another consideration with cannabis concentrates is they do exactly that: concentrate the THC levels. This is fine if you want to get high, but the concentration process also strips a lot of cannabis’s therapeutic compounds, namely cannabidiol (CBD), which can help reduce anxiety, treat pain, and promote better sleep, all without the high from THC. Consider trying CBD products first and assessing if they help. Scientists still aren’t certain if CBD has an adverse effect on a pregnancy, but the absence of the psychoactive THC has got to be better outcome for the baby. CBD is commonly produced as an oil, but is also available in a variety of other forms.
It’s important to empathize with the many women using marijuana during pregnancy where drugstore pharmaceuticals simply don’t help. There are a plethora of pharmacological treatments for morning sickness, vomiting, nausea, etc, but many of these present their own range of adverse effects and health considerations. Being educated about all the options available and then consulting an obstetrician is the best way to have an informed conversation about treatment options. If conventional medications don’t work, then perhaps marijuana is the best option, but be mindful that the jury is still out regarding the effects of marijuana on pregnancy; there’s still more evidence and studies done with any pharmacological product used during pregnancy than there has been with marijuana. Be mindful too, of the information sources supporting cannabis use in pregnancy, as many advocates are marketing a cannabis product.
No expectant mother wants to endanger her child, and factors such as lifestyle and diet play a big role in healthy pregnancies. Whether medicating through prescribed pills or marijuana, chemicals are passed to the child through the placenta. Making an informed choice is the best action you can take.