Conducting sustained marijuana research has for many years been a fairly difficult project to pursue, and as a result, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what cannabis does to the human body. One of the specific areas that lacks clear data is whether or not marijuana affects pregnant women and their babies. An article published by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) found that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug by women who are pregnant. It was most commonly found being used by pregnant women to treat morning sickness.
“Because of concerns regarding impaired neurodevelopment, as well as maternal and fetal exposure to the adverse effects of smoking, women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue marijuana use,” the article said.
But it also noted that there isn’t enough data yet to formulate any solid conclusions.
“It is difficult to be certain about the specific effects of marijuana on pregnancy and the developing fetus,” it said. “There are insufficient data to evaluate the effects of marijuana use on infants during lactation and breastfeeding, and in the absence of such data, marijuana use is discouraged.”
Despite ACOG’s recommendation that pregnant women should not use marijuana, many women have reported that cannabis helps them manage severe bouts of morning sickness.
Trinity Dogood, for example, said that the only way for her to get through the intense vomiting and nausea resulting from her Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)—a complication in which pregnant women experience unrelenting “nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance”—was to smoke cannabis.
“I couldn’t stop heaving long enough to take a hit from the pipe, so took a hit and blew it into my face,” Dogood told The Daily Beast.
And it helped. She said the smoke allowed her to stop throwing up, helped cure her nausea, and restored her appetite.
“I was so excited,” she said. “I was so relieved not to be puking. I knew all I needed to do was find a doctor during pregnancy and I’d be all set.”
In addition to personal accounts like Dogood’s, some doctors have begun questioning official recommendations against prescribing cannabis to pregnant women.
Dr. Anthony Anzalone, who practices in New Jersey, said that there may be times when cannabis could be beneficial.
He told reporters that while he thinks there are risks involved with smoking marijuana during pregnancy, the risks of complications like HG could be even more dangerous.
“I did obstetrics for 25 years. On a scale from one to 10 , Hyperemesis Gravidarum is off the charts. Hyperemesis creates a lot of problems,” he said.
For conditions as severe as this, Anzalone said “marijuana would help tremendously.” But for now, it appears there’s simply not enough data for any decisive conclusions to be drawn.
“Pregnant women or women contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in favor of an alternative therapy for which there are better pregnancy-specific safety data,” the ACOG article said. “High-quality studies regarding the effects of marijuana and other cannabis products on pregnancy and lactation are needed.”