Why are more women using pot, other cannabis products during pregnancy? | Health Info
By Amy Norton Health Day Reporter
MONDAY, December 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) – A growing number of pregnant women use marijuana or other cannabis products, and a new study suggests relief from symptoms such as morning sickness may be the main reason .
In recent years, studies have documented an increase in cannabis use during pregnancy. A U.S. government study found that between 2002 and 2017, the number of pregnant women who reported using marijuana in the past month doubled from around 3.5% to 7%.
But it’s unclear why they choose to use marijuana.
So, for the new study, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 52 pregnant or breastfeeding people who had used various cannabis products before pregnancy – not only smoked marijuana, but other products like edibles.
Of this group, 30 continued to use cannabis after becoming pregnant. And almost all of them said it was to help manage the symptoms, most commonly morning sickness.
This is an important point for obstetricians and other health care providers to know, said lead researcher Meredith Vanstone of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
“I’m concerned that providers often think that these are people who don’t care, that they are using cannabis for fun and that they could quit if they wanted to,” Vanstone said.
“This is not what we found,” she said.
In general, study participants were knowledgeable about the evidence, or lack thereof, and made a conscious choice to continue to use cannabis during pregnancy, Vanstone noted.
That’s not to say that cannabis is a good option for dealing with morning sickness.
Much of it has to do with strangers, the groups say. Some studies have linked mothers’ use of marijuana during pregnancy to an increased risk of preterm labor, low birth weight, and learning and attention problems in their children.
These studies don’t prove that marijuana is to blame, in part because it’s difficult to separate the effects of marijuana from smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, which usually go hand in hand.
And much less is known about other cannabis products that have become popular in recent years, such as edibles and cannabidiol (CBD), said Christina Chambers, a professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Now that marijuana is legal in many states in the United States, there is renewed interest in the potential effects of prenatal use, said Chambers, who is also a program director for MotherToBaby California.
MotherToBaby is a non-profit organization that provides scientific information on the safety of medications and other exposures during pregnancy.
“We need more research,” Chambers said. “The best advice we have right now, in the absence of high-quality data, is to avoid (cannabis use) while pregnant and breastfeeding.”
When it comes to breastfeeding, there is little research into whether a mother’s cannabis use can affect the baby. But, Chambers noted, it is known that THC – the ingredient responsible for the “high” in marijuana – can pass into breast milk.
“If I was counseling a pregnant person,” said Vanstone, “I would encourage a discussion of alternatives for symptom management that we know are safe.”
To deal with morning sickness, ACOG recommends starting with diet and lifestyle changes, such as choosing bland foods and eating small, frequent meals. If that isn’t enough, vitamin B6 – sometimes in combination with the antihistamine doxylamine – may be recommended, depending on the group.
The new study – published Dec. 20 in CMAJ (Journal of the Canadian Medical Association) – involved 52 Canadians. Thirty were pregnant and 22 were breastfeeding. Most identified as female, one as non-binary.
In interviews, many said they stopped using cannabis once they knew they were pregnant, most often because they were worried about the effects on the fetus. But 30 continued to use, with 29 citing symptom management.
Of the 33 participants who discussed breastfeeding, 28 chose to use cannabis. At this point, they often cited it as a way to unwind and “relax” or deal with the stress of parenting a newborn baby.
Chambers said research like this, examining the motivations for using cannabis during pregnancy and breastfeeding, is helpful.
For her, the “take home” message is that health care providers should ask pregnant patients if and why they use cannabis. Ideally, she said, then there should be a “frank discussion” of the known and the unknown, and any alternatives for symptom management, including non-drug options.
SOURCES: Meredith Vanstone, PhD, associate professor, family medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, Professor, Pediatrics and Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California, San Diego, and Program Director, MotherToBaby California, LaJolla, California; CMAJ (Journal of the Canadian Medical Association), December 20, 2021, online
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