At present, 29 states plus Washington, D.C. have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes while overall attitudes towards marijuana have become more permissive. There is increasing evidence for the use of marijuana in treating pain and spasticity, plus there is evidence for its use in treating nausea caused by chemotherapy. There is even a website that touts the use of marijuana to treat nausea caused by pregnancy, which just goes to show that much information on many websites cannot be trusted, especially from .com websites.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that women who are pregnant, likely to become pregnant, or are at an age where they can become pregnant, should not use marijuana or any products containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. This recommendation is based on studies that have linked marijuana use during pregnancy to anemia, low birth weight, and the higher likelihood of the newborn requiring a neonatal ICU stay. In addition, marijuana has been linked to defects in fetal neurodevelopment with children born to marijuana users having impaired higher-order brain executive functions like impulse control, visual memory, and attention during the school years.
Believe it or not, there is an endocannabinoid system present in early fetal development of the central nervous system. This system first appears at eight days after gestation, aka conception. At eight days after conception most women do not even realize that they are pregnant. THC directly impedes the functioning of the endocannabinoid system. The fetus is most susceptible to interference from outside toxins like drugs and alcohol during his or her first trimester of life. Surveys have shown that between 2002 and 2014, the rate of women who admitted using marijuana during pregnancy rose from two to four percent, and that is probably a low estimate, as many women may not want to admit they used drugs during pregnancy.
In the 1970s and 80s most pot contained about four percent THC, whereas today’s pot contains about 12 percent. Products like K2 and Spice may contain 40 or more percent. Studies in mice showed brain, eye, and facial disfigurement (cleft palate) in mouse fetuses exposed to cannabinoids at day eight of gestation (the 8th day of mouse gestation is roughly equivalent to the third or fourth week of human embryonic development), and the percentage of birth defects rose as the cannabinoid dose increased.
A recent study done at Columbia University showed that use of marijuana during pregnancy is on the rise. They found that the rate of women who admitted using marijuana during pregnancy rose by 62 percent between 2002 and 2014. Further work needs to be done in this area, but it is clear that marijuana use among women of reproductive age is rising which may lead to a rise in birth defects. Women in this age group need to be more aware of the risks of the use of this drug.
For more information go to www.acog.org
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