Cannabis And Pregnancy: A Look At The Research

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Cannabis And Pregnancy: A Look At The Research

It's common knowledge that women are advised to avoid drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and other harmful substances during pregnancy. The question over the safety of using cannabis while pregnant is no different.

While it should be obvious, experts are still unsure of the risks associated with using cannabis during pregnancy.

It's common knowledge that women are advised to avoid drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and other harmful substances during pregnancy.

The question over the safety of using cannabis while pregnant is no different and has been debated since the 1960s, with fears that it may cause birth defects, and over the years birth-related problems may well have been identified.

Dr. Arnold Shoichet, a physician and board member for the Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre, Vancouver, BC. (http://www.mcrci.com) explains there have been many studies suggesting cannabis use in pregnancy may have links to "lower birth weight, premature birth, and subsequent behaviour issues in the children”. However, “critics point out some of these studies have ambivalent results”, notes Dr. Schoichet. “A cause-effect relationship between the measured outcomes and cannabis use has not been established”.

Most health professionals would agree that the area may not be studied well enough; in fact many studies rely on self-reporting which makes it hard to get a precise measurement of how much is consumed, a common problem with this method.

Of course, there would be very few doctors or health professionals who would recommend you to use cannabis during pregnancy, but there have actually been some positive results.

One such study, "Prenatal marijuana exposure and neonatal outcomes in Jamaica: An ethnographic study" by Dr. Melanie Dreher, was published in The American Journal of Pediatrics in 1994.

Dr. Dreher studied mothers living in rural Jamaica where some mothers were using cannabis to medicate their morning sickness, and others weren't using any at all. After the babies were born she used the Neonatal Assessment Scale at 3 days, and again at 1 month, to measure the babies’ neurological performance and behavior.

Although she expected to find complications like low birth weight or compromised neurological development, the study found that the babies who were born to mothers using cannabis during pregnancy showed improved social skills over the babies who were born to mothers that didn’t use cannabis.

Dreher is quick to add that the study is by no means an endorsement of using cannabis to have healthier babies, but it does demonstrate a lack of adverse effects.

She explains that external social factors may have influenced the results: "Even though they were the same, they were matched for age and socioeconomic status, but there were differences in the lifestyles of the ingesting and non-ingesting mothers that we believe accounted for the differences. For example, many of the using mothers also were vendors of ganja and so they were pretty much at home most of the time in that neonatal period, so they were quite attentive to their babies”.

Her conclusion was that "the performance of the children wasn’t correlated in any way with the neonatal exposure to cannabis”. Dr. Dreher was interested in doing another study on the subject but was denied by the National Institute of Health.

The results of one study however, cannot hold the ground as evidence, certainly not when there are studies which suggest the opposite. According to Dr. Nachim, if a pregnant woman is using marijuana for medical reasons, she should look for alternatives. “Ideally she shouldn’t use any medication. But if she has to, she should use medications that have more evidence for safety of the baby”.

One study into the effects of THC on primate fetuses showed degraded neurological development, however the results of the study could well be different if a human fetus was used. Generally speaking, all intoxicating substance are recommended to be avoided during pregnancy.

According to a Toronto-based physician who has prescribed medical marijuana to some of his patients, “I think the best thing is to not use any substances, or medications, or drugs, so the fetus has the best chance of development”, and if a pregnant woman is using marijuana for medical reasons “Ideally she shouldn’t use any medication. But if she has to, she should use medications that have more evidence for safety of the baby”.

At the end of the day, maybe it is safe? But is it worth the risk? Probably not.

 

         
  Guest Writer  

Written by: Guest Writer
Occasionally we have guest writers contribute to our blog here at Zamnesia. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, making their knowledge invaluable.

 
 
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