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Cannabis use in Pregnancy

Many cannabis products are available on the market. They can be used for a variety of reasons, a few of which include anxiety, sleep, chronic pain, and good ol’ recreational fun.

What happens if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, though?

It isn’t ethical to do double-blind studies on the effects of any kind of substance use on pregnant or breastfeeding individuals. However, based on studies of people who were already using, animal studies, and on cannabis itself, we can gain a lot of knowledge.

Here are some quick facts:

– THC (the substance that produces a “high”) definitely DOES cross the placenta to enter the baby’s bloodstream. It also very easily crosses into breast milk. There can actually be up to 8 times as much TCH in breast milk than in the blood!
– THC gets stored in fats in the body and is slowly released back to the bloodstream: if you are a regular user, it can take weeks for it to clear your bloodstream entirely.
– Exposure to cannabis (even products not containing THC) is associated with preterm delivery and low birth weight babies, and babies with reduced muscle tone and poor suckling abilities.

Cannabis Hyperemesis

As a Labour & Delivery nurse, I have seen many people who have used THC-containing products for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. The lack of research on its immediate and long-term impact on the baby, this practice is not recommended by the SOGC (Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada).

Like all medications and interventions, there is a balance of benefits and risks. Yes, cannabis products CAN reduce symptoms of nausea in pregnancy in the short term. Long term use can lead to Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome.
Experiencing this syndrome means that your nausea and vomiting comes back furiously, leading to severe vomiting, abdominal pain, and dehydration.

In conclusion

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and are experiencing symptoms that improve with cannabis use, talk to your doctor or midwife about other alternative therapies. Everything is always a balance of risks and benefits: if cannabis is the only thing that keeps your anxiety in check or stops you from vomiting all food and water for months, then it might be the best option for you. However, the known risks and lack of research make other therapies worth checking out.

Some helpful links:

Health Canada Cannabis in Pregnancy

SOGC Cannabis in Pregnancy

BC Perinatal Services

– Sheena