A New Zealand woman posted a video on the web of her talking about smoking marijuana to help with her morning sickness. She said her doctor and midwife approved and that the pot eased her morning sickness completely. It’s a scrappy low-budget recording, and I don’t know how many people saw it or took her advice, but it prompted the president of the New Zealand Pediatric Society to make a statement warning about the possible harm of pot-smoking in pregnancy.
I have heard that pot smoking reduces nausea in morning-sick women. Recently when I wrote about a study showing there really is no cure for morning sickness, one Babble reader wrote in: “There’s one thing that helps with morning sickness, time-proven, and mother-tested. But just like it’s ecological benefits, no one will study it because it’s been painted with a scarlet letter. I’m talkin’ ’bout weed, y’all, and I’m not kidding.” But what do we know about pot and pregnancy? We know it has an effect on our body chemistry, but what does it do to the growing fetus?
As with most drugs — street and prescription — we don’t have enough information. The standard advice on this topic is to avoid street drugs including marijuana. But after having researched the topic, I’ve found the pot and pregnancy question a pretty uneasy one. Compared with highly addictive illicit substances and binge drinking — and, for that matter, cigarette smoking — pot smoking is less conclusively dangerous. Partly because it’s hard to do a controlled study. Rebecca and I wrote about this very topic for our former Babble column, “Parental Advisory”:
“Pot smokers are more likely to smoke cigarettes and use other drugs, and no one who smokes pot during pregnancy feels much like opening up about it. The result is few studies with mitigating factors. Some research shows that prenatal pot exposure has been associated with behavioral and neurological problems. Some show no effects. One study even showed that pot-exposed babies fared exceptionally well. We do know that pot stays in the system a long time and that drugs pass through the placenta, so the drug is likely getting to the baby. We just don’t know exactly what it does when it gets there.”
Some people think the positive effects of the drug outweigh what harm might be done to the fetus — neither has been irrefutably proven. But many others think it’s not worth the risk.
The other issue to consider is the fact that pot is illegal in most states. Ultimately, this question, like all the other ones you’ll be dealing with as a mother, is up to you. Also, with pot smoking it can be hard to separate the real risks from the cultural assumptions and stigma. For further information on the topic without the histrionics, you could check out The Panic Free Pregnancy, by laid-back L.A. M.D. Michael Broder.
photo: R. Mannie Photography/flickr