Is cannabis the new pregnancy wonder drug?
At a ripe six months pregnant, I’m currently one of those ‘poor women’ whose nausea lasts well beyond the first trimester. It came on like a tidal wave at six weeks and the combined powers of acupressure wristbands, lemon rind and ginger candy did little more than make me laugh with disappointment.
Rounding out the second trimester, I no longer tear up at the casual mention of kimchi or unfriend anyone who snaps a lunch selfie, but nausea management remains a part of my daily life. I’ve asked every doctor, doula, mom, and midwife I know about remedies and the consensus may surprise you: Try cannabis.
The conversation usually goes like this: “I’m not officially allowed to recommend this…” or “you didn’t hear it from me, but…” followed by a hearty plug for CBD, or CBD with low doses of THC. But using cannabis to treat nausea is not new. People have turned to pot for tummy relief for decades. U.S. doctors have prescribed it for chemo, cancer, and AIDS-related nausea since the 80s in the form of Marinol, a synthetic form of THC everyone seems to have forgotten exists.
Marinol is sometimes even prescribed to pregnant women for hyperemesis gravidarum, the extreme form of morning sickness famously suffered by Kate Middleton. Hyperemesis is one of the most dangerous conditions causing mother and baby alike to lose weight and vital nutrients, often resulting in miscarriage or developmental issues. Women who suffer from this severe and dangerous condition are significantly more likely to try cannabis while pregnant, though the Duchess of Cambridge was likely not one of them (what ever would the queen say?). For some, though, a little bud is the difference between a fetus-endangering food aversion and the sudden craving for Doritos with Cool Whip.
With no research to lean on, the use of cannabis in pregnancy remains unspeakable.
But the consensus in the medical community is that marijuana and pregnancy should never mix. So despite medical studies showing that “Marijuana significantly reduced ratings of ‘queasiness’,” there has been little in the way of research on the safety of cannabis for pregnant women.
In fact, the policy at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology is that women shouldn’t use cannabis products in pregnancy. Period. “Like almost all other prescription and non-prescription drugs, there are no studies which can guarantee that it is safe,” says Dr. Allison Hill, author of Your Pregnancy, Your Way: A Guide to Natural Pregnancy and Childbirth and a top Los Angeles OBGYN.
But Hill points out there are no studies that prove it to be dangerous, either. “The research does not show any increased risk in birth defects, preterm labor, low birth rates, etc,” she says. “The only thing that has come up has been a slightly higher risk of behavioral problems in children, though the studies are not definitive.”
Additionally, Hill explains, these studies are difficult to interpret due to the many factors that could also be triggering these behavioral issues. For instance, many of these marijuana users might also be smoking cigarettes, or consuming alcohol.
The problem is, nobody wants to test drugs on pregnant women. And even if they do, Big Pharma and their Washington lobbyists don’t welcome the competition.
The US doesn’t consider CBD safe for pregnancy despite numerous studies that state: “It has no effect on embryonic development.”