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Consuming Cannabis During Pregnancy: Here’s What the Science Says

March 11, 2018

In December 2017, a research letter published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported that marijuana use among pregnant women had increased by several percent between 2009 and 2016. Reuters published a story headlined, “Pot-Smoking on the Rise Among U.S. Pregnant Women.”

The news went national, spreading worry among health professionals and confusion among pregnant women.

'Pot-Smoking on the Rise Among U.S. Pregnant Women' said a recent headline. But that's not what the study actually found.

The scariest quote in the story was provided by Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, who was not involved in the JAMA study: “The more we study cannabis use during pregnancy,” said Bonn-Miller, “the more we are realizing how harmful it can be.”

But if you read through the actual JAMA study, you’ll find that it didn’t cover pregnant women in the United States, but rather a small set of women in Northern California—many of whom may not have realized they were pregnant when they consumed cannabis, and some of whom may have stopped once they confirmed they were pregnant.

In that same Reuters story, Bonn-Miller acknowledged that “we are just scratching the surface in terms of understanding cannabis use in pregnancy.”

The entire story was alarming and confusing.

The concern is understandable: The major component in marijuana, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, has been shown to cross the placental barrier and enter the fetal bloodstream. So it’s not unreasonable to wonder how THC and other cannabinoids affect a developing fetus.

The confusion among pregnant women speaks to a pressing and difficult question: How do THC and other cannabinoids affect pregnant women and the long-term health of their children?

The three-word answer to that question is this: We don’t know.

There are no easy or definitive answers when it comes to the relative safety or advisability of cannabis consumption during pregnancy. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are typically reticent when it comes to conversations about cannabis. They either don’t want to discuss it or sternly reject all consumption out of hand. Some immediately turn the conversation into a lecture on criminal behavior.

With little to no information coming from their doctors, it’s not uncommon for pregnant women to turn to personal friends and acquaintances, or the internet, for answers.

Too many doctors won't discuss it rationally, so pregnant women are left to do their own research.

One Woman’s Experience

That’s what Andrea did. A 26-year-old college student in North Carolina, Andrea gave birth six months ago to a healthy daughter. During the first half of her pregnancy, she took cannabis microdoses from a water pipe to help with early-term nausea and insomnia.

“Marijuana can definitely be a tool,” she told me, “but using marijuana while you’re pregnant is more than just smoking and doing what you did before you were pregnant.”

She continued:

“You’re taking care of another being, and you need to treat it as such. Like, the cleaner the better. Some marijuana users are constantly smoking joints and blunts, and you know that’s not as clean as it would be in a water pipe, which is what I smoked out of. And, if tobacco’s involved, that’s a whole different ball game… and then there are many more things that you to be paying attention to, like: Have you eaten today? Did you drink water? How are you smoking? Who are you around while you smoke? Does it make you be around a bad crowd? Are you putting yourself in a dangerous situation to go and buy it?”

These are the sorts of questions a health care provider should be able to discuss with a pregnant woman. But Andrea said she had to find most of her information elsewhere.

Divulging cannabis use, especially in prohibitionist states, can carry enormous risk for pregnant women.

“I’m three years into a biology degree,” she said, so she knows how to read a research study. “But there’s no long-term evidence based on studies done on marijuana and the [holistic] effects on babies. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence, so I was just looking for that [when I was making the decision to consume cannabis.] I dove in online I did some research and asked some people in my life that had smoked with their kids. And, you know they were like, ‘We have had no problems.’”

Online, Andrea said she found a lot of women writing that they and their babies were going to be fine.

Though they offered little advice to her about how to manage her cannabis consumption during her pregnancy, Andrea did tell her doctors about her use. “When I first went to the OBGYN I was assigned to in my county, I did let them know that I was smoking marijuana because I was worried about the social services aspect. And they said really, they never really care or check for that. The doctor said for the most part they’re really checking for harder things that are obviously going to affect the child, the things [that have] a grand amount of evidence [to back it up],” she said.

Why Don’t We Know More?

That’s one woman’s experience, and it should not be taken as universally applicable. The lack of conclusive scientific information regarding the effects of cannabis does not mean that women should smoke marijuana during pregnancy. As with any unknown, it makes sense to proceed with caution.

Andrea’s story, though, led me to ask more questions about cannabis and pregnancy. Why don’t we know more about the effects?

My search for answers sent me to the University of Washington’s Health Sciences Library, where an extensive search through its PubMed database and stacks of medical journals helped me realize that research on cannabis and pregnancy is itself in its infancy. Peer-reviewed studies on the subject only extend back to the late 1980s. By contrast, research on the effects of alcohol on pregnant women goes back as far as the late 1880s.


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Playing Scientific Catch-Up

So, we’re starting from a deficit. The first research into cannabis use and fetal health began less than 30 years ago.

Moreover, the nature of that research itself has been doubly limited. For decades, scientists interested in studying the effects of cannabis have had to overcome significant roadblocks set up by the federal government.

What’s more, directly tampering with a fetus or a pregnant mother’s health in the name of scientific research crosses into problematic ethical territory, and is not allowed by the rules of most credible professional associations and institutional review boards (which review the ethical implications of proposed research studies).

Inconsistent Data From Studies

As a result, scientists are left to rely on self-report surveys and biochemical analyses. These are the two least invasive research methodologies, but both methods introduce complications in the study data that can produce inconsistent or downright misleading results.

The authors of a 2002 study in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology noted:

“Although the literature on the effects of maternal cannabis use during pregnancy has been steadily growing, it has a number of limitations which include: the use of relatively small samples; the failure to provide estimates of the extent of maternal cannabis use; lack of prospectively collected measures of cannabis use; and failure to control for factors that may potentially confound the association between cannabis use and pregnancy outcomes.”


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Drawbacks in Self-Report Studies

Self-report studies often derive data from questionnaires filled out by expectant mothers, as was the case with Kaiser study referenced in the Reuters report last year. In this methodology, data is entirely dependent on the honor system: Researchers proceed on the hope that expectant mothers will be honest about their own personal cannabis use.

Any mention of cannabis use was, in most cases, ignored or treated as the confession of a crime. The doctor's response changed depending on the pregnant woman’s skin color.

Divulging that information, especially in prohibitionist states like Kansas, Idaho, or Texas, can carry enormous risk for the expectant mother. In many states, cannabis use by a parent has resulted in arrest and custodial loss of his or her children. As a result, many pregnant women underreport, leaving the researchers with flawed data.

“Self-reports are less invasive and permit the evaluation of substance use over longer periods in time, but are influenced by possible reporter social desirability and forgetfulness,” wrote the authors of a 2011 study in European Addiction Research that compared self-reporting by expectant mothers to the results of their urinalysis exams. “Although multiple studies on consistency and validity of multiple assessment methods among adults and adolescents have been reported, little information is available on the agreement between self-reported cannabis use and urinalysis in pregnancy.”


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The Risks of Self-Reporting

By mentioning “social desirability,” that 2011 article touched on another confounding part of the study of cannabis and pregnancy: socio-demographics.

The risks of self-reported cannabis use are much higher for mothers of color. In the United States, African-Americans are four times more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis, despite similar consumption rates. That affects a study subject’s decision to provide, alter, or withhold data. Moreover, for those with lower socioeconomic status, marijuana may be one of the only viable options for treating first-trimester nausea, sleep problems during pregnancy, and other issues.


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Troubling Racial Differences

Take, for instance, the alarming data found in a 2017 study by researchers out of University of Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth University, which explored the way medical providers counseled expectant mothers during prenatal visits. Any mention of cannabis use was, in most cases, ignored or treated as the confession of a crime. The medical providers’ response changed depending on the pregnant woman’s skin color.

'Medical providers do not appear to provide adequate counseling' about cannabis use during pregnancy.
2017 study, University of Maryland

“Indeed, providers do not appear to provide adequate counseling,” the researchers found. “In a recent study evaluating providers’ responses when patients self-disclosed cannabis use during a prenatal care visit, 23% of providers did not even acknowledge the disclosure and 48% provided no specific counseling regarding cannabis and its effects on pregnancy. 70% of the time was spent on punitive content such as legal implications and investigations by child protective services. Notably, African American patients were nearly 10 times more likely to receive punitive counseling.”

Conversely, women in higher socioeconomic brackets who report marijuana use may have healthier pregnancies for reasons completely unrelated to their cannabis consumption.

“For example,”wrote the authors of a 2011 Pediatric Research study out of The University of Queensland and Mater Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia,“ it can happen that those who are not typical cannabis users (e.g., those from a higher socioeconomic background) may be more likely to underreport drug use. If this is the case, underreported cannabis use among women who maintain better birth outcomes may lead to overestimation of the association between cannabis use and adverse birth outcomes.”


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About That JAMA Research

With all that in mind, let’s circle back to the JAMA research letter reported by Reuters in Dec. 2017. There’s a lot to unpack there.

In that study, researchers examined four million pregnant women throughout California, treated in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) network.

The location of the study immediately raises cultural, historical, and socioeconomic questions.

California features an unusually progressive, racially mixed, and socioeconomically diverse population. Also, California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and California’s residents, on average, embrace legalization at a much higher level than the rest of the country. (On the 2016 ballot, 57% of Californians voted to legalize marijuana.) Plus, Northern California—where the study’s lead author, Kelly Young-Wolff, and senior author, Dr. Nancy Goler, are located—was the locus of early pro-legalization activism.

And yet, headlines accompanying stories about the Northern California-based research seemed to imply that the results applied to pregnant women throughout the entire country.

NorCal Does Not Equal America

Though only three states prohibit both recreational and medical marijuana outright, cultural attitudes towards the use of the drug are different in more conservative states. According to the 2016 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “Based on 2013-2014 data, 7.22 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 across the nation used marijuana in the past month. Adolescent marijuana use ranged from 4.98 percent in Alabama to 8.74 percent in California.”

In other words, not accounting for variable demographics—either during the study or after, as news of the study is consumed by the public—can drive unreliable conclusions about the effects of cannabis.

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There’s another dynamic at play here. The Reuters headline, “Pot-Smoking on the Rise Among U.S. Pregnant Women,” clearly implied that more American women were sparking up during the full term of their pregnancy.

Many women may be consuming cannabis before they realize they're pregnant.

In fact, the data implied nothing of the sort.

The Kaiser Permanente patients in the study were asked about and tested for cannabis use only once—during their initial screening for prenatal care. That screening came at approximately 8 weeks’ gestation time (earlier for some, later for others). Most women don’t realize they may be pregnant until they’re 4 to 7 weeks along. In other words: Many of the women in the study may not have known they were pregnant when they consumed cannabis.

A urine screening, meanwhile, can turn up cannabis use from two to three weeks previous.

So, subjects in the Kaiser Permanente study might have consumed cannabis weeks prior to realizing they were pregnant. Some may well have continued to use cannabis after their pregnancy confirmation—but many may have chosen to stop. We don’t know, because the Kaiser study did not test for cannabis use after that first prenatal screening.


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So, What’s a More Reliable Study?

Ready for more complications? Large-sample longitudinal studies using biochemical sampling (analyses of blood or urine), like the Kaiser Permanente study, are the most trustworthy research designs. And these aren’t without their own issues. Prenatal cannabis consumption can often correlate with tobacco and alcohol use, making it difficult to isolate the effects of cannabis use alone.

A mother’s cannabis tolerance, and the lingering detectability of cannabis, can affect the data.

Also, a mother’s tolerance, and the lingering detectability of cannabis, can affect the data. Cannabis can linger in blood and urine weeks to months after use, picking up use that may have happened before the mother was even pregnant. Additionally, these sorts of biochemical studies are expensive, which can impair the research even further.

Some of the limitations on these studies “include small or highly selected samples; lack of prospectively collected measures of cannabis use; and lack of control for potential confounders, e.g., socioeconomic status and maternal health, and also use of other substances (cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs),” wrote the authors of a 2011 study from The University of Queensland and Mater Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia. “Cannabis users differ from nonusers in a range of ways and any observed association with ever using cannabis may be indicative of residual or uncontrolled confounding.”

“Consistent and Inconsistent”

Even the best research literature often leaves medical providers with conclusions like this one, from a 2012 study also conducted in Brisbane, Australia, on fetal birthweight and cannabis:

“The findings of this study are consistent with previous research, which has suggested that smoking cannabis during pregnancy may lead to lower birth weight, increased rate of premature birth, and shorter birth length. However, our data are inconsistent with findings of studies that have not found a significant association between cannabis use in pregnancy and birth outcomes. The existing discrepancy between the findings might be due to the difference in the study design and assessment of cannabis use (e.g., retrospective vs. prospective) or level of adjustment for confounders.” (This study was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.)

To paraphrase in plain English: Our study agreed with some previous findings, and disagreed with others. We attribute this to the problems associated with obtaining reliable data on the actual consumption of cannabis among pregnant women, and the difficulty of isolating cannabis use from other factors like tobacco and alcohol use.

Enter the Precautionary Principle

When the science falls short on hard conclusions and specific details, medical professionals often fall back upon the precautionary principle, which is a risk management strategy used in situations where scientific understanding is incomplete.

One common definition of “precautionary principle” strategy is:

When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm. Morally unacceptable harm refers to harm to humans or the environment that is threatening to human life or health, or serious and effectively irreversible, or inequitable to present or future generations, or imposed without adequate consideration of the human rights of those affected.

When medical practitioners apply the precautionary principle to cannabis and pregnancy, the most common recommendation is to abstain, or to avoid mention of cannabis in prenatal visits all together. That leaves pregnant women like Andrea back at square one—turning to friends and the internet for information.


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What About Lower Birth Weight?

One of the few areas that has seen more extensive study is the effect of cannabis on birth weight. Even there, though, the research is complex and inconclusive.

One study says birth weight is affected by cannabis consumption. Another says it isn't.

One of the most respected studies to date is “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids,” a comprehensive report released by the National Academy of Sciences in 2017. In that report (which Leafly science director Nick Jikomes discusses here), the authors conclude that smoking cannabis during pregnancy is associated with lower birth weights, while the relationship between cannabis use and other outcomes is unclear.

That conclusion was contradicted, however, by a 2016 study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, which concluded that cannabis poses no significant risk to birth weight and preterm delivery. That finding was consistent with a previous 2010 study funded by the Centers for Disease Control.

The authors of the 2016 study wrote:

“We found that maternal marijuana use during pregnancy is not an independent risk factor for low birth weight or preterm delivery after adjusting for factors such as tobacco use. There also does not appear to be an increased risk for other adverse neonatal outcomes such as SGA and placental abruption once we account for other influencing factors.”

One thing to keep in mind: The National Academy’s 2017 report specified that it wasn’t necessarily the cannabinoids in the smoked cannabis that led to lower birth weight. The authors of that report pointed out that non-cannabinoid byproducts of combustion commonly found in smoke (including carbon monoxide) can impair fetal growth.

How About Cannabis and IQ?

Although this newest review may help relax concerns relating to birth weight and preterm delivery, there may still be other complications attributable to maternal cannabis use, especially in regards to neurological and behavioral development.

One study found that prenatal THC exposure had no effect on IQ, but may have had subtle effects on attention and memory.

A 2013 study in Pediatrics, conducted by researchers at the University of Florida and Harvard University, “indicates that prenatal marijuana exposure is associated at 10 years of age with inattention and impulsivity and with subtle learning and memory deficits. Prenatal marijuana exposure does not appear to affect overall IQ, but it has been associated with underachievement in reading and spelling at age 10 years.

As well, a 2017 Toxicology study from University of Sao Paulo found evidence that THC exposure during pregnancy affected brain development in mice on the molecular level. As their research showed, fetal development is an intricate process involving specifically-timed signaling and THC may have some impact on that process, leading to impairments later in life. Several other studies have echoed these concerns.

These studies also acknowledged that “the literature available evaluating academic achievement is limited.” They also noted that “no independent effect of prenatal marijuana exposure on growth has been documented throughout early childhood and adolescence.”


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Tough to Isolate the Effects of Cannabinoids

So we’re back to the issue with confounding variables, and an inability to isolate just for marijuana’s affects as the child in question matures. Many kids who are slow to hit a few academic milestones go on to lead productive and happy lives, which begs the question: How does one measure achievement and so-called normalcy? Clearly, human-made IQ tests are as rife with error and subjectivity as self-reported marijuana use.

On top of that, a 1992 study from Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, found that prenatal marijuana exposure had no measurable impact on a baby’s development, and one groundbreaking study done in Jamaica by Dr. Melanie Dreher in the 1980s discovered babies who were exposed to marijuana prenatally actually performed better on tests of their reflexes than babies in the control group.

So now marijuana could actually be beneficial to a pregnant woman and her baby?

And Then, Add Politics to the Mix

Confused? Well, along with the aforementioned methodological complications, there’s a more political reason why that the research around maternal marijuana use is so baffling.

The circumstances around Dr. Dreher’s study showed a conscious suppression of research that didn’t indicate the “right” things for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). According to Herb, after Dr. Lehrer found some positive effects of marijuana use prenatally, her research was defunded, and other factors were put in place that would ensure the results the institute was hoping for:

“Dreher’s research was originally funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), but after the results of the five-year study showed no statistical difference between the two studied groups, NIDA took away her funding…Instead, NIDA suggested that she continue her research under the supervision of approved scholar, Peter Fried, who’s previous work had found that marijuana harms fetal development.”

This situation implies there could be a more sinister reason why mothers and providers are being jerked around with contradictory research: Big Pharma profits from marijuana’s continued marginalization.


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Real-Life Decisions

All these hedged, contradictory, and sometimes confusing studies leave pregnant women in a difficult situation: Wanting to do the right thing, but unable to find conclusive information on which to base their health decisions.

In the case of Andrea, the 26-year-old North Carolina student, she decided to taper off her cannabis consumption later in pregnancy because she was nervous about the effects THC could have as more neurodevelopment occurred.

“I slowed down there at the end especially when development gets a little bit more important, I guess you could say. More neurodevelopment and just like bigger growth steps in shorter amount of time,” she said.

No Easy Answers: Weigh the Evidence

Do we need to have this immense fear reaction if a pregnant woman decides to consume cannabis? That seems like the criminalization of weed rearing its ugly head, especially as other expectant mothers continue to consume substances like caffeine, with effects on fetuses that are similarly fuzzy.

Andrea’s daughter was born weighing a healthy 9 pounds, 6 ounces, and has hit all her developmental milestones since birth. It’s impossible to know how healthy this little girl will be as she grows up, but for now, things look positive.

“We’ve had literally no problems,” said Andrea. “My pediatrician even said out of all the babies that she sees, my daughter is probably one of the most aware.  She says she’s ‘one of those little aware geniuses.’”

Despite all the hype in the media, Andrea says she doesn’t regret a thing. “I would totally do it again. It was so helpful during the beginning of my pregnancy…I don’t think marijuana [in moderation] is dangerous at all.”

That’s one thought. Here’s another:

A report released by the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI) in 2016 said, “The science is incomplete, but the public health message is clear: To have the healthiest baby possible, avoid using marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco during your pregnancy.”

Further Reading: Books on Medical Marijuana

The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis, by Dr. Julie Holland
The Cannabis Health Index: : Combining the Science of Medical Marijuana with Mindfulness Techniques, by Uwe Blesching
Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana, by Michael Backes
Stoned: A Doctor's Case for Medical Marijuana, by Dr. David Casarett
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Alexa Peters

Alexa Peters is a freelance writer who covers music, writing, travel, feminism, and self-help. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Paste, the Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, and Amy Poehler's Smart Girls.

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  • amelia

    i can only rely on anecdotal evidence myself, but of everyone i know who’s smoked during pregnancy, it seems like the greatest risk has been in getting caught and dealing with social services. the saddest part is most of the moms i know only smoked to deal with nausea and give their fetus the best chance to thrive…bummer of a system, man.

    • David Stevens

      Stay off the dope man!

  • Open Minds

    “Mortality within the first 2 years in infants exposed to cocaine, opiate, or cannabinoid during gestation” which was also published in the Pediatrics journal, is even more of an eye opener. It found a dramatic decrease in the mortality rate of babies born testing positive for cannabis. “A total of 2964 infants were studied. At birth, 44% of the infants tested positive for drugs: 30.5% positive for cocaine, 20.2% for opiate, and 11.4% for cannabinoids…Within the first 2 years of life, 44 infants died: 26 were drug negative (15.7 deaths per 1000 live births) and 18 were drug positive (13.7 deaths per 1000 live births)…The mortality rate among cocaine, opiate, or cannabinoid positive infants were 17.7, 18.4, and 8.9 per 1000 live births, respectively.” However, many of the babies that tested positive for cannabinoids, also tested positive for cocaine and/or opioids. Once they screened the babies for those that only tested positive for cannabinoids and no other drugs (157 babies), the mortality rate was 0.0 per 1000 live births. No, that is not a typo — zero deaths. The other fact that stands out in this study is that the overall drug positive death rate (13.7 deaths per 1000 live births) was lower than the drug negative rate (15.7 deaths per 1000 live births). What would account for this? If you look at the death rate for cocaine (17.7) and opiate (18.4) positive babies, they are higher than the drug negative death rate. But the death rate for babies whose mothers consumed both cocaine and cannabis or opiates and cannabis was much lower (8.9 deaths per 1000 live births). Therefore, it seems that cannabis provided some sort of protection for babies exposed to cocaine and opiates. A possible reason why cannabis exposed babies had a much lower mortality rate is because they had a more robust Endocannabinoid System, due to the fact that their mothers consumed cannabis while pregnant.

  • This type of writing should be done with input from a licensed professional. This is a non issue. Smoking ANYTHING while pregnant is unacceptable and unethical! The fact that THC has been shown to cross the placental barrier poses an ethical issue that is an unacceptable risk to any licensed professional. I will never recommend smoking ANYTHING to a pregnant woman. The research on fetal effects of exposure to smoke and products of combustion cannot be ignored. I would consider the sublingual use of legally derived whole plant hemp oils. You are wrong in your opinions expressed in this article. The answers are easy to any medical doctor who recommends cannabis. It is not acceptable for use in the inhaled or ingestible form to a pregnant woman for medicolegal reasons and the writer of this article is clearly not qualified to express this opinion.

    • Open Minds

      Yes, combusting cannabis creates unwanted substances like benzene, carbon monoxide, naphthalene, toluene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (commonly known as PAHs). But studies have shown that vaporizers decrease these unwanted toxins by approximately 90%. As to THC, there is not one iota of proof that it causes any damage to the fetus. Remember, our own Endocannabinoid System produces Anadamide which is the Endocannbinoid System’s version of THC.
      Moreover, currently in the US, women who are suffering from severe nausea and vomiting are prescribed antiemetic off label drugs like zofran, phenergan and compazine. These drugs have numerous potential side effects which can lead to great discomfort. But what is truly shocking, is that these drugs are rated as Category C by the FDA Pregnancy Categories (NOTE — The FDA changed its labeling system in June 2015). Per the FDA, Category C drugs are described as: “Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks”. Unfortunately, women are finding out the hard way as zofran has been potentially linked to birth defects. In the case of phenergan, the HER Foundation found that:”…the 3 most commonly prescribed antiemetics (phenergan, compazine, and tigan) are more strongly correlated with second trimester fetal demise than with having any positive therapeutic effect…”
      Lastly, what is a woman to do if she’s suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum? Dr Wei-Ni Lin Curry published an excellent article called:” Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Clinical Cannabis: To Eat or Not to Eat”. In the article, she describes her own experience, as well as the experiences of other women suffering from HG.
      So my question to you Dr Ahimsa Porter Sumchai is simple: Do you even know what the Endocannabinoid System is? And if a woman suffering from Hypermesis Gravidarum asked you for advice, what would you tell her?

      • Ricky

        I suspect she would prescribe something.

      • Please do not argue with me as a licensed UCSF/Stanford medical doctor that it is okay for a pregnant woman to use inhaled cannabis! And certainly don’t promote smoking cannabis for morning sickness as a man to a woman with children who never required medication for it. Saltine crackers worked for me…and I was pregnant with my second son as a medical student. There are prescription medications and simple interventions like saltine crackers that work. I do not have to accept the opinions of unlicensed unprofessional people making comments about the unethical and unlawful use of products of combustion during pregnancy! The March of Dimes research proves products of combustion lead to low birth weight infants. The Journal of the American Medical Associations opinions in this matter are grounded in more science and ethics than yours! I will block any comments made in response to my professional expert opinions in this matter that are insulting, defaming or personally attacking!

        • Open Minds

          Ahimsa, obviously you lack reading comprehension skills. I agreed with your comment on combustion which is why I recommended vaporization. Every single one of my comments are based on medical studies, since I happen to do volunteer medical research on cannabis. Here are some more studies which have been published in prestigious journals:

          Probably one of the most famous studies on cannabis and pregnancy, “Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica: An Ethnographic Study”, was conducted by Dr Melanie Dreher who is the Dean of Nursing at
          Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. This study was published in 1994 in the Pediatrics journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. To quote the “Measurements and main results” of this study: “Exposed and nonexposed neonates were compared at 3 days and 1 month old, using the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale, including supplementary items to capture possible subtle effects. There were no significant differences between exposed and nonexposed neonates on day 3. At 1 month, the exposed neonates showed better physiological stability and
          required less examiner facilitation to reach organized states. The neonates of heavy marijuana using mothers had better scores on autonomic stability, quality of alertness, irritability, and self regulation and were judged to be more rewarding for caregivers.” In addition, the study found no differences in birth weight, birth length and gestational period. A five year follow up study found:”no significant differences in developmental testing outcomes between children of marijuana-using and non-using mothers…”

          The next study, “Mortality within the first 2 years in infants exposed to cocaine, opiate, or cannabinoid during gestation” which was also published in the Pediatrics journal, is even more of an eye opener. It found a dramatic decrease in the mortality rate of babies born testing positive for cannabis. “A total of 2964 infants were studied. At birth, 44% of the infants tested positive for drugs: 30.5% positive for cocaine, 20.2% for opiate, and 11.4% for cannabinoids…Within the first 2 years of life, 44 infants died: 26 were drug negative (15.7 deaths per 1000 live births) and 18 were drug positive (13.7 deaths per 1000 live births)…The mortality rate among cocaine, opiate, or cannabinoid positive infants were 17.7, 18.4, and 8.9 per 1000 live births, respectively.” However, many of
          the babies that tested positive for cannabinoids, also tested positive for cocaine and/or opioids. Once they screened the babies for those that only tested positive for cannabinoids and no other drugs (157 babies), the mortality rate was 0.0 per 1000 live births. No, that is not a typo — zero deaths. The other fact that stands out in this study is that
          the overall drug positive death rate (13.7 deaths per 1000 live births) was lower than the drug negative rate (15.7 deaths per 1000 live births). What would account for this? If you look at the death rate for cocaine (17.7) and opiate (18.4) positive babies, they are higher than the drug negative death rate. But the death rate for babies whose mothers consumed both cocaine and cannabis or opiates and cannabis was much lower (8.9 deaths per 1000 live births). Therefore, it seems that cannabis provided some sort of protection for babies exposed to cocaine and opiates. A possible reason why cannabis exposed babies had a much lower mortality rate is because they had a more robust Endocannabinoid System, due to the fact that their mothers consumed cannabis while pregnant.

          The latest study ”Maternal Marijuana Use and Adverse Neonatal Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis“, looked at 31 studies that assessed the effects of maternal marijuana use on adverse neonatal outcomes and concluded that: “Maternal marijuana use during pregnancy is not an independent risk factor for adverse neonatal outcomes after adjusting for confounding factors. Thus, the association between maternal marijuana use and adverse outcomes appears attributable to concomitant tobacco use and other confounding factors.”

        • Ricky

          You will block because you haven’t the ability to back your statement. And as open minds pointed out, you lack comprehension. Or did you simply ignore what he wrote and hurry back your ridiculous diatribe based on 4o year old data?

          Glad saltines worked for you. I guess you think you should be the example by which everyone else in measured? Everyone must be able to use saltines because your highly educated pompousness did? Get over yourself lady. Real doctors know we don’t all respond the same to any given sickness or situation.

          How many hours did you spend studying cannabis at UCSF/Stanford?

        • Wow. I don’t think I’ve seen so much arrogance from a medical professional in my life. You could do with a little humility. Reading through your posts you regularly challenge studies, but are ready to accept the MoD one as gospel “proof”? I think you know that’s not how these things work. Furthermore, there’s a not a once size fits all answer for every condition out there. So take your saltines and stuff them where the sun don’t shine.

          • Ricky

            Saltines have amazing curative properties. There are endless studies that support their efficacy. In fact, I’m surprised we haven’t begun using them to combat the opioid epidemic foisted upon us by her friends over at big pHarma.

            Saltines, the future of medicine.

        • I will block you if you post personal and professional attacks…pure and simple! I am entitled to my opinion without being trolled by people who cannot stand up to an intellectual fight without reducing it to defaming statements. Move on to the next comment if you can’t make an educated contribution.

          • The Resistance

            Get off your high horse, Ahimsa. Also, learn how to write.

          • Ricky

            How many hours did you spend studying cannabis at UCSF/Stanford?

          • Ricky

            Lol. Poor thing.

          • Ricky

            To clarify, the fact that you claim to be a ” licensed UCSF/Stanford medical doctor” means absolutely nothing if you didn’t study cannabis there. Did you, study cannabis there? Why have you ignored my comments and answered to others?

            You are certainly entitled to your opinion. You are not however entitled to act like some superior know it all spoiled child when discussing a topic you’ve done ZERO personal study on.

            You suggest you are intellectually superior but really you are intellectually dishonest.

    • Kathleen Johnson

      Tell that to a pregnant woman who has hyperemesis gravidarum. I noticed you didn’t mention vapor. We tried drops under the tongue after every other medication failed. Midwife suggested cannabis drops under the tongue or whole plant by vaporizer. My daughter couldn’t even hold down water but we tried the drops anyway. The taste made her vomit. Then we tried the vaporizer because smoking it was out of the question
      It worked. She didn’t continue with it though, she only tried it one time, then cried because there was finally something that would allow her body to hold down food but she dared not continue with it for fear of children services. My daughter lost 30 pounds during that pregnancy and lost so much of her muscle tone from being in bed for nearly 9 months. Now she has ptsd, an eating disorder, and is terrified to ever have another child. The prescribed drugs used to treat HG are much more dangerous than cannabis but still, like any other drug should be used only if clearly needed. Using a vaporizor to take cannabis by a pregnant woman needs to be considered in addition to the drops in cases that involve HG. I am no doctor and quite frankly I have lost a lot of trust in them after a prescribed drug killed my mother and watching my daughter suffer so horribly. I’m not saying all doctors cannot be trusted, but in my family’s case, that trust is no longer automatic, it has to be earned.
      Please don’t take this as a personal attack, it’s not. It’s my daughter’s experience and my nightmare and my only purpose is to tell our story in the hope that more will be done to research vaporizing cannabis for those who cannot hold down food or water.

  • Etidorhpa

    The article should have one line ; Don’t consume marijuana while pregnant.

    • Ricky

      You based this on what?

      • Etidorhpa

        Your an idiot. Go back to planned parenthood.

        • Ricky

          I don’t know what that was supposed to mean. Planned parenthood? And I’m an idiot? Ok, child.

        • The Resistance


  • Alisa

    I think that pregnancy and consuming Сannabis are incompatible things. Of course if future mother didn’t realise she’s pregnant it’s another situation. But I think that each pair must prepare for this period before getting pregnant, using advices like this

  • No link to my recent article on the subject?

    • Dana Kroh

      I would love this link!

  • Belle Begonia

    This is the dumbest thing I have ever seen in my life the fact that you are even considering that an herb yes and herb that was put here and our bodies are designed to process is worse than any of the Pharmaceuticals that doctors pump into pregnant women including statin drugs while they’re pregnant. The only people saying not to do it have never used marijuana and have no idea of the effects. I smoked with all three of my children. I had nausea throughout all three pregnancies and that is the only thing that helped me eat food. Our bodies have cannabinoid receptors and can process anything that grows from the ground. They cannot process genetically modified organisms from the laboratory, our bodies are not designed to eat this food and you guys are complaining about smoking an herb when methamphetamines and statin drugs are worse and readily available from your drug pushing dr. Natural Alternative Health Care should always be used especially with having children we’ve been having children for billions of years without any help or interference from doctors who are only 200 years old we do not need do have things researched before we try them because for billions of years we’ve been using them without our doctor’s permission and people who do use herbs are in control of their own health. it wasn’t until the male-dominated pharmaceutical oriented industry took over that we were using herbs on a regular basis no one was being killed or murdered and now the government wants to make herbalist into felons . Do you think we’re only 200 years old or what just because somebody says something doesn’t mean you should believe it. Live from your own experience that’s all I can say. I know Drs who prescribe marijuana as there are over 700 medical uses for it that we have been forbidden to have access to for the last several years because of ignorance and ulterior motives. Wake up America stop taking your pills and go back to the Earth!

    • vale

      im agree whit you

  • Cheryl Willyerd

    I’m 60yrs old an I have smoked this pure natural medicine for 45 yrs , had 2 healthy boys who today are in there 30s and use for medical purposes today. Took away my MS ,,used only cannibias for my medicine. My cancer doctor did a brain scan in 2014…MS gone, no scaring, beautiful brain. I know smoking is not good for us even not pregnant. The medicine is 100% pure live plant used to make pure no artificial MAN MADE PHARMACY POISON THAT IS KILLING OUR BABIES….WAKE UP DOCTORS AND STOP PUSHING THEIR DRUGS ON US. I am a survivor of MS AND CANCER….HEALED WITH CANNIBIAS ONLY. NO DOCTOR DOPE. THANK YOU FOR READING MY STORY.

  • Illuminated one

    I call bullshit. My wife smoked cannabis her whole pregnancy and that combined with listening to classical music in the woom and my child came out perfectly healthy and smarter then 95 percent of kids her age ! Don’t believe everything mainstream medicine tells you ..half the time they are just as corrupt and fake as the news !

  • Duck Mysick

    I didn’t read the entire article but I agree we need to research more on this subject. Here in Colorado they take your child from you if you consume marijuana while pregnant, for my wife’s last pregnancy eveytime we went in for a checkup they gave her a u.a. obviously to check for harder drugs which is discrimination by the way marijuana is an herb not a drug thank you very much! Any how I thought I’d bring this up because there was a poster with all the negative things people say about this healing herb on this poster grouping cannabis users with heroin and meth users and what the funny thing was about that was there was no warning or info on what happens if you consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes during pregnancy, it’s sad how our government and non believers bad mouth this amazing plant not knowing half of what it can do for us but yet they promote the use of alcohol and smoking cigarettes or they wanna air all these pills that help one thing but the side effects harm you in numerous different ways, wake up people marijuana had been around for a long time and it’s always done the same thing it’s spreads love and I think that’s what all the big wigs are trying to avoid it’s makes us see the obvious clearer because everyday were lied to and taught to believe lies this herb brings clarity to all aspects in life that’s the reason it’s shunned so much because it’s to real for the fake to understand it’s ok Mary Jane’s voice grew even louder with this article so continue to deny the obvious one day you will see the actual truth

  • Josh Landers

    This is why I love Leafly, they do the thing every other blog doesn’t: research. It’s becoming more and more valuable to have blog with peer reviewed easy to access proof. Also, when there isn’t enough, they don’t lie.

  • Ryan Ross

    Yes absolutely. My children are proof of it. Perfectly healthy and my wife didnt have nearly the problems all our other friends who were pregnant around the same time did. Not even close. I also snuck in my Dr. Dabber to the delivery room so my wife didnt even need morphine while giving birth.

  • Dixonsupporter

    If the hospital suspects you use marijuana in PA, they will investigate you and possibly accuse you of not getting prenatal care. What happens then, is that you end up needing a “guardian” over the age of 18 to supervise you with the child 24/7. If your numbers on your ua do not continually go down and then stay at 0 for several tests, then they open a court case on you. They also send you to a drug and alcohol counselor to determien if you’re an addict. So… if you wonder if the hospital or clinic will turn you in, the answer is yes.

  • Sydney Lomelino

    I smoked throughout my whole pregnancy with all 3 and there’s nothing wrong with them. My youngest is a straight A student.

  • Tiffany Jording

    I have 2 children and 1 on the way i smoked with both of my kids and went full term … no low birth weight … no early term … perfectly healthy babies …. also unlawful? Thats funny seeing as in the past few years both police and dcfs refuse those cases due to most of the medical benifits from cannabis…. one thing ive noticed about the topic of marijuana use … the nonsupporters fight to prove its harmful with little to no evidence and refuse any evidence that backs the use of pot … like its ability to treat and cure some diagnostic … but medical professionals will back the use of man made chemicals instead of a natural herbal remedy to treat similar to the same things … why … because these professionals rely on patients dependencies on these said chemicals … without them … these docs wouldnt have paychecks 😊 America is going green … in more ways than 1 … another thing … the number of marijuana users is NOT growing … the number of people speaking out is theres a difference but wording it the other way sounds way more alarming so that’s what these studies produce for the narrow minded … so in conclusion … dont use a natural substance … use man made chemicals instead of God given herbs 😂

  • Devon Ross

    Its very interesting, I’ve been reading almost every article published on its effects on pregnancy and I overlooked the political side of it.
    “Dr. Lehrer found some positive effects of marijuana use prenatally, her research was defunded, and other factors were put in place that would ensure the results the institute was hoping for.”
    This is insane, its science and shouldn’t have its research altered like so, for what? Its too bad but with that being noted I feel most research done could potentially be altered in the U.S just because there is still a large amount who are ignorant. It really is an interesting concept. Only recently we discovered that brain cells do repair, previously we thought once you kill off a few with a shot of alcohol that was it, but that’s not the case. Consider some of our greatest people in history consumed marijuana, William Shakespear, Queen Victoria, and Carl Sagan. Sure, they weren’t pregnant, but it surely didn’t hold them back from making history did it? Now back to its effects on pregnancy. If you look up a normal “things to avoid while pregnant” you will find most of them are to put you in a position to avoid food poisoning, while the others are man made substances, be it caffeine, alchohol, or cleaning products. My point is, it doesnt seem like it belongs on the list, especially if you are sure its 100% JUST cannabis and nothing added, Butane Hash Oil(BHO) or wax however, may be a different ballgame considering foreign substances are being introduced.
    In my college days in Psychology i wrote a final paper on Stress and its effects on the human body, which mind you are far worse than most think it is, it can indirectly lead to death believe it or not. Like we all look different because that is just how nature works, our brains have different levels of chemicals. Some people are far more prone to stress than others, I personally believe that if you take cannabis(in moderation of course, because all things in life need moderation) to counteract stress, you will be a much healthier, happier person. Remember, we are all different, just because jogging or reading helps you with your stress, doesn’t mean its the same thing for the next person, we don’t consider that as humans and are quick to judge those who don’t “Do what I do”.
    The herb has been around longer than you or I have, before we came into the USA, It was common among Native Americans but unfortunately i cant find much regarding women during pregnancy.
    The biggest mistake you can make in this matter is reading just one or 2 research docs and taking it to be true. At this point there is counter research to just about every point, making this a huge mess, just know, humans are behind the research, which means we may never know the full truth. Im not a scientist in any way, but i believe moderation is key, mixed with a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy, exercise, and get those vitamins! Also, do remember you dont need to roll a joint, the paper is just extra chems and heat, you can try a double bubbler(smoke from the bowl gets filtered through 2 different compartments of water) with an Ice filter, to drastically cool down and filter your canna, overall healthier on yourself.

  • There’s no official screening system at the state or federal level for marijuana use in pregnancy in the US. And in many states, substance use during pregnancy is sufficient to make a child abuse or neglect report.
    In a study of that data, by Young-Wolff and her colleagues at Kaiser, they found a near doubling in the percentage of pregnant women who screen positive for marijuana use by self-report and a positive toxicology test between 2009 and 2016, from 4 percent to 7 percent.

  • Corina S. Hunnicutt

    I love your writing on “Consuming Cannabis During Pregnancy: Here’s What the Science Says
    Alexa Peters”. Your post is very much helpful and informative. Keep up the good work and present us your best.