When Hollie Sanford suffered from extreme morning sickness and sciatic nerve pain during her pregnancy, her doctor wanted to prescribe the expectant mother opiates.
However, she was deeply concerned with becoming addicted to the prescription drugs as well as whether the medication would harm her fetus. That’s when she says she and her husband, Daniel, started researching alternatives. They stumbled across using marijuana for its medical benefits — in her case, to relieve incessant nausea and to alleviate pain — and she decided to use it during her pregnancy (in tea form). She felt the potential side effects were better than those she would have risked by using prescribed narcotics, but the story didn’t have a happy ending, as the couple got an unhappy surprise when their baby was born.
Their attorney says that shortly after their baby’s birth, she was illegally tested for drugs (drug tests are routinely run on infants whose parents are on Medicaid or public assistance, which is a story in and of itself, but the Sanfords have private insurance). While the baby’s urine sample was clean, there was evidence of marijuana byproducts in her meconium. Hospital officials then delivered the bad news — the Sanfords were free to leave the hospital, but their baby would not be going with them. Despite hospital records saying the baby was healthy and normal at birth and case workers testifying that the baby should be left with her parents, little Nova has been placed with another caregiver while the family awaits a December court date.
No matter how horrifying this situation is or how wrong it may feel to many of us, it’s a startling wake-up call to moms that the medicine you use during pregnancy can have unforeseen affects on your life and on that of your baby. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug by the federal government, as well as by the governments of most American states, so it remains a huge risk for moms even though the benefits may be there and the side effects may be better than those of many prescribed (and legal) drugs.
As it stands, it’s not simply a matter of illegal drug use during pregnancy that you have to consider if you’ve got a baby on board. Working with your medical care provider very carefully during all stages of your pregnancy is important. You’ll want to notify any doctor of your pregnancy status, and he or she can consult medical texts to make sure that any prescriptions they hand out are compatible with pregnancy. Also, don’t forget that the FDA wants to hear from you about your medication experiences during pregnancy so they can continue to build upon the knowledge base that physicians and pharmacists can draw upon for years to come.
We certainly hope this baby is reunited with her family soon and that they can weather the separation with enough positivity to get them through this difficult time.