Cannabis is a miracle plant in so many ways. It can help alleviate a whole host of symptoms without harmful side effects, but the scientific community is still very much playing a game of catch-up when it comes to understanding whether consuming cannabis during pregnancy is a good idea. If you're curious about the risks of using cannabis while pregnant, here's where the science stands.
Cannabis Use Among Pregnant Women
Since the legalization movement began in North America, the number of women using cannabis while pregnant has increased dramatically. In a study of data gathered by a California health institute, researchers reported a near doubling in the percentage of women screening positive for cannabis use while pregnant between 2009 and 2016.
Unsurprisingly, cannabis use during pregnancy is increasingly popular among younger women. Twenty-two percent of pregnant women below the age of 18, and 19 percent of those aged 18 to 24, screened positive for cannabis use in 2016. With the evidence showing an increasing willingness to use cannabis while pregnant among younger moms, what does the actual science have to say on its effects on the unborn child?
The Science on Cannabis for Morning Sickness
One positive finding for cannabis use while pregnant relates to the treatment of morning sickness. One study found that pregnant women who experienced severe bouts of nausea and vomiting were four times more likely to use cannabis as a means to treat it.
Another study investigating current recommendations for cannabis use while pregnant found that 69 percent of Colorado cannabis dispensaries claimed that cannabis products were effective at treating morning sickness. Thirty-six percent of dispensaries told women that cannabis was safe to use while pregnant.
Cannabis may offer benefits to pregnant mothers as a treatment for morning sickness, but what's not so clear is if this comes at the expense of the unborn child's immediate health and subsequent development throughout childhood.
Why the Science Isn't Solid on Cannabis and Pregnancy
A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reviewed more than 10,000 cannabis studies and concluded some alarming findings around the use of cannabis during pregnancy. Researchers uncovered what they claim was a strong link between babies exposed to cannabis in utero and low birth weights.
Low birth weights are a common occurrence with mothers who smoke tobacco. Smoking any substance increases carbon monoxide levels in the blood. This reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, meaning there is less available for the growing baby. Researchers expanded on the finding by claiming they couldn't verify whether the finding was a result of smoking or whether it was cannabis itself.
The Risks of Using Cannabis While Pregnant
Much of the available science on the risks of using cannabis while pregnant is old and outdated. Many of the studies were carried out at a time prior to the arrival of the many highly potent concentrates currently available.
The increased levels of THC exposure across the board present new challenges and require further analysis to fully determine whether there are risks to unborn children and their subsequent health and development. Time will tell whether cannabis truly is safe for pregnant mothers, but for now it seems prudent to exercise caution around its use until the scientific community can verify the longer-term effects.