A Growing Number of Pregnant Women Turn to Cannabis to Treat Morning Sickness

May 7, 2018 at 4:43 p.m. ET
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If you've experienced morning sickness, you likely recognize the classic remedies: ginger, peppermint tea, staying in bed all day and crying... You know, the usual.

But sparking up a joint? That's something you wouldn't see suggested in many pregnancy forums or baby books, but believe it or not, a growing number of moms are turning to cannabis during pregnancy to ward off morning sickness.

According to a January 2017 study published in JAMA, marijuana use among pregnant women increased from 4.2 percent to 7.1 percent from 2009 to 2016, and those 18 and younger increased their use from 12.5 percent to 21.8 percent during that same period of time. Pregnant women ages 18 to 24 increased their marijuana use from 9.8 percent to 19 percent during that same time period.

More: Is Smoking Weed in Front of Your Kids Ever OK?

Those in favor of marijuana as a morning sickness remedy often point to a University of Massachusetts study carried out in 1994 on Jamaican neonates exposed to marijuana in utero, which suggested there was no difference in the behavior of babies who had been exposed to the drug.

However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Human studies have shown that some babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancies respond differently to visual stimuli, tremble more, and have a high-pitched cry, which could indicate problems with neurological development." And the American Medical Association suggested in 2015 that marijuana products should be labeled, "Marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding poses potential harms," they said.

The NHS states that "research suggests that using cannabis during pregnancy could affect your baby's brain development" and warns that "regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco is associated with an increased risk of your baby being born small or premature."

But still, plenty of mothers continue to use cannabis during their pregnancies. And some of these women revealed to Vice the reasons behind their controversial choice.

"The medical term for what I suffered is 'hyperemesis gravidarum,' which is a fancy way to say I was throwing up so much that it was a danger to my health and the health of my baby," one mother, who used marijuana to help curb her morning sickness, told Vice. "Marijuana did help. Immensely. I don't think I would have made it through without cannabis."

More: Does Marijuana Use Impact Your Fertility?

"I was initially against the idea of it, mainly because of the stigma surrounding smoking while pregnant," another says. "However, after three weeks of keeping almost nothing down… I smoked for the first time. Just a couple hits. I sat back, ate half a sandwich, and it didn't come back up! I think I napped after. I smoked a few more times after that because I was still puking almost every 20 to 40 minutes during weeks four through 15 and had lost about 20 pounds. When I smoked, I could eat and nap. It helped keep food down and was better than Zofran. Honestly a lifesaver."

And these days, pregnant women in some parts of the U.S. can use cannabis during pregnancy without breaking the law; currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have laws legalizing the drug for medical use; it's legal for recreational use in nine.

More: I'm a Working Mom, & I Use Marijuana Daily

However, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in October 2017, obstetrician-gynecologists are discouraged from prescribing or suggesting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes during preconception, pregnancy and lactation. "Rather, 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." ACOG also says, "[H]igh-quality studies regarding the effects of marijuana and other cannabis products on pregnancy and lactation are needed."

A version of this article was originally published in November 2015.

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