There’s nothing more controversial than a pregnant woman consuming a little cannabis. Medical professionals and the general public are quick to turn down their noses on the topic. Yet, the implications of prenatal cannabis use may surprise you. To help you avoid countless hours on Google, we’ve created a whole Marijuana & Pregnancy series to give you easy access to valuable information. This ultimate guide to how cannabis affects pregnancy summarizes each of the articles and tells you where to find more information.
1. An ancient history of cannabis and pregnancy
Women have been using cannabis to aid in pregnancy for millennia. No joke, Egyptian medical texts from 1534 BCE give recipes for hemp preparations used to ease contractions. Ground hemp was mixed with honey and inserted in the vagina. Archeological evidence suggests that cannabis was used as a medicinal vapor to ease difficult childbirth.
Much of the history about how our ancestors used these plants has been lost. However, women still have a unique relationship with the plant. Cannabis still remains the most popular illicit substance used by pregnant western women.
When faced with pain, nausea, fatigue, and mood swings, a lot of ladies out there are looking for something to ease the physical toll of pregnancy. It looks like our modern inclination for cannabis may actually be a relic of the ancient past.
For a more detailed examination of the ancient uses of cannabis during pregnancy, check out this article here.
2. Does cannabis have an impact on fertility?
Concerned about fertility? The HERB article Marijuana and Pregnancy #2 dives into the complex world of cannabis and hormones.
If you’re having trouble conceiving, the herb may not be helping much. Yet, there are lots of reasons why people experience infertility issues, and it is unlikely that there is one single cause in each case. A combination of factors is more likely to contribute.
Long story short, In men, there is a lot of back and forth about whether or not cannabis causes low sperm counts. In women, the impact of cannabis on fertility seems to depend on how much you use the herb.
Surprisingly, those who only use cannabis sporadically are more likely to have fertility troubles. Though, the studies that looked into this claim tested monkeys, not humans.
One study, for example, showed that monkeys stopped ovulating after they were given a dose of THC. However, after about 3-4 months of continuous dosing, ovulation spontaneously began again. Once the body becomes accustomed to cannabis, it seems, reproductive function adapts.
If you’re looking for more information on cannabis and fertility, check out the article here.
Marijuana and Pregnancy #3 dives into the current debates on the effects of prenatal cannabis use. As far as medical research goes, doctors have a few main concerns about prenatal cannabis use. The biggest arguments against using the herb while pregnant include:
- Increased risk of impulsivity and inattention
- Unknown implications on fetal brain development
- Growth issues (low birth weight, small babies, etc.)
One 2014 study, looked at pregnant mice and their offspring and attempted to figure out how THC affects a growing brain. The research suggested that the psychoactive changed the way different neurons connect and communicate with each other. However, the implications of these potential changes are not known.
If these brain changes happen in humans, what impact do they have on quality of life? Do these changes happen every time, or only in some patients? The full article contains a larger discussion of these issues.
For more information on impulsivity and growth issues, please take a look at the full article here.
4. Does cannabis increase the risk of premature birth?
Our Marijuana and Pregnancy #4 piece looks into claims that the herb is linked to preterm delivery. So far, the evidence surrounding cannabis and preterm birth has been inconclusive. But, things are a bit complicated.
In 2012, a research team from Australia and New Zealand found that parents who used cannabis pre-pregnancy had a greater likelihood of preterm delivery. However, different research has been unable to find a firm correlation.
Back in the 1980s, a large study looked at over 12,500 expecting mothers. The study did find that a few more cannabis consuming mothers did deliver preterm when compared to non-consuming counterparts. The numbers, however, were not statistically significant. This means that no firm conclusion can be drawn.
For more information on cannabis and preterm birth, find the full article here.
5. Does cannabis increase the risk of SIDS?
Cannabis and SIDS is another topic of hot debate, and we’ve gone over the research in Marijuana and Pregnancy #5. Few studies have looked at cannabis and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But, the most cited study is a small one and the results are a little odd.
There was a positive correlation with a father’s preconception cannabis use and SIDS. There was no correlation between a mother’s preconception or prenatal use. So, larger studies are sorely needed to figure out whether or not this connection is viable.
When it comes to SIDS, exposure to secondhand smoke is one of the biggest concerns. If have chosen to use cannabis after giving birth, it’s best to take it outside or switch to a different consumption method.
Of course, taking precautions like eating a healthy, nutritious diet while breastfeeding and making sure that your baby is in the proper sleeping position will counteract risks of this devastating syndrome.
For more information on cannabis and SIDS, read the full article here.
6. Breastfeeding and marijuana, a touchy subject
Our Marijuana and pregnancy series began with a touchy subject: breastfeeding. The long-term implications of using cannabis while breastfeeding are mysterious and controversial. Research like that of Katherine Tennes found no significant impact on babies exposed to THC via breastmilk.
Tennes followed 756 women through their pregnancies and up to 1 year after birth. She found no significant difference in developmental outcome between cannabis-exposed and non-exposed babies.
Other researchers have had different results. A 2012 review found that nursing, THC-exposed babies were more likely to experience the following:
- Increased tremor
- Poor sucking reflex
- Decreased feeding time
- Slow weight gain
- Changes in visual responses
- Delayed motor development
Consuming cannabis is no reason to stop breastfeeding, however. The benefits outweigh the cons. Our full article goes over the nitty-gritty about breast feeding.
For more information on cannabis and breastfeeding, read the article here.
Many mothers must make the excruciating decision of whether or not to take psychiatric medications while nursing. Concerned about the risks, many new moms turn to cannabis as an alternative. But, is cannabis as effective at treating postpartum depression? How does it compare to pharmaceuticals?
Cannabinoids and prescription antidepressants can both be passed along to a baby through breastmilk. This is concerning for mothers hoping to treat relentless postpartum depression.
For those concerned about any potential risks of THC on a nursing baby, CBD might be a better option. Yet, there is no firm research on the effects of CBD on a developing baby.
For more information on postpartum depression, read the article here.
8. Jamaican study with surprising results
After all that science, how about a real-world example? Our piece on a well-known Jamaican study provides some perspective to the cannabis and pregnancy conversation. Dr. Melanie Dreher and a team of researchers followed 24 cannabis-using mothers during pregnancy and 5 years afterward.
The study looked at everything from birth weight and general health to IQ and behavior. What they found might surprise you. At birth, babies from cannabis-using mothers were no different from non-using controls. In fact, the herb-exposed babies actually did better on a few tests. After five years, there was still no difference between the two groups.
The Jamaican study is definitely worth a read. Find the full article here.
All in all, there really are no easy answers when it comes to cannabis and pregnancy. Whether or not you consume the herb is your personal choice. Many mothers out there have used it to ease difficult pregnancies, and they have reported positive results. However, only you can decide whether or not cannabis is a viable option for you.
If you’re interested in more in-depth information on these topics, please check out our Marijuana & Pregnancy series. All of the information provided here is flushed out over eight separate articles.