Are you pregnant or TTC? Are you consuming cannabis and feeling worried about what you should do, what your doctors may say, and how you can make the best choice for you and your baby? Learn more about cannabis and pregnancy through my personal journey.
Please note: This post is an opinion piece written by a mother who has personally experienced cannabis consumption during pregnancy, not as a healthcare provider or anyone offering medical advice.
Relax, It's Going to Be OK
First, if you are a pregnant mother reading this right now, hello, welcome, and congratulations on your pregnancy!
Take a deep breath, you can relax while you’re here.
I’ve been where you are, and I can tell you from experience - it is going to be OK.
My Cannabis and Pregnancy Story
The title “Cannabis and Pregnancy” has been sitting in my draft articles to write for the past two years.
It was the one topic I got asked over and over again as a blogger and friend who provides cannabis resources for women and moms.
But I never had a personal connection to it, so I didn’t know how to talk about it.
That was until I got the surprise of a lifetime when my oldest son, Ransom, was 6 years old.
A few years back, I went through a nightmare of a health crisis that ended in the doctors telling me I had less than a 50% chance of conceiving another child again.
I did not use cannabis during my first pregnancy, and I never thought I’d have to deal with the question of whether or not to use cannabis while pregnant.
Fast forward a few years, a miracle, a gift from God, whatever you want to call it, I could not believe how lucky and excited I was to find out I was pregnant in the Fall of 2020.
What I did not expect was the emotional turmoil I felt when facing the choice to decide whether or not to continue my cannabis use to treat my anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
I found myself feeling helpless and scared, just like the moms who had come to me in the past.
I could finally relate to those mothers desperately wondering whether or not it would be safe to continue to use cannabis during their pregnancy to support their mental and physical health.
Within a few days, my joy was stolen as I found myself:
- Desperately searching for answers - online at 2 am, going through article after article, reading forum after forum, Facebook pages, groups, and rabbit holes
- Riddled with anxiety - what will my doctors say? Will they be supportive? What will other people think? Who can I talk to about this?
- Paralyzed with fear - what will happen if I have to deal with CPS? Can they really take my baby away?
Of course, it was not a decision I made lightly - it was my Angel baby we are talking about, after all.
But after my experience, I have decided that the most dangerous part of cannabis use and pregnancy is the current legal and healthcare system and the unfair bias and stigma held by society against pregnant mothers.
I know there is no one right answer for everyone, but mothers who choose to use cannabis to support their own health during pregnancy deserve the support of their healthcare team and they deserve to learn how to use cannabis in the safest ways possible.
There Is Not Enough Evidence
First, it is important to address what everyone seems to be looking for - proof that cannabis use during pregnancy is either harmful, beneficial, or has no effect.
The only fact is that there is not enough scientific evidence to support whether it is harmful, beneficial, or anything in between.
Just like other forms of cannabis research for medical conditions, research into cannabis and pregnancy remains virtually nonexistent due to the Schedule 1 drug status of cannabis in the United States.
Federally, cannabis has no accepted medical use, despite over 30 states implementing medical marijuana programs and more than 15 states allowing for recreational adult-use cannabis consumption.
Furthermore, the limited research and articles currently available on cannabis use during pregnancy are potentially biased as they were conducted with the intent to prove the harm of using cannabis during pregnancy.
In addition, many of these studies do not differentiate the many different ways to consume cannabis and default to the most common consumption method: smoking.
These studies are further blurred by mixing in women who smoked cigarettes during their pregnancy.
Without randomized controlled trials (RTC) there is not enough evidence to support that cannabis use is harmful or beneficial in pregnancy.
Cherry-picking one or two studies to fit a particular agenda is not enough to support a conclusion one way or another.
If It Was Dangerous, We Would Know!
Cannabis is the most widely used ‘drug’ in the world, and humans have been consuming cannabis for thousands of years.
Although there is no statistical data, it is safe to assume, given this knowledge, that cannabis is also one of the most widely used ‘drugs’ during pregnancy.
It is likely that millions of mothers have used cannabis during their pregnancies throughout history.
By all logical thinking - if cannabis use during pregnancy caused any problems to the mother or baby - WE WOULD KNOW.
Critics and opponents of cannabis use would be screaming it from the rooftops.
Scientific or anecdotal, collective concerns would be shared among mothers - but they aren’t.
Today, there are likely millions of cannababies all throughout the world living happy, healthy, and productive lives (I am one of them, living proof).
And there are millions of mothers who have birthed these babies and watched them meet and exceed developmental milestones, thrive as school-aged children, and grow into amazing adults.
As one of the oldest and most traditionally used medicines throughout our history, it is obvious that if cannabis use during pregnancy was harmful - we would already know it.
Focus on The Medical Relief
Cannabis use is not right for everyone - pregnancy or not.
And there can be a big difference between the medical use of cannabis and the recreational use of cannabis.
For mothers who simply use cannabis recreationally - of course, I would recommend halting cannabis use during pregnancy, just as I would recommend ceasing alcohol and cigarette consumption.
If it is not for medical purposes - why bother, right?
But what if it IS for medical purposes?
I know you're not here because you want to use cannabis recreationally.
You're here because cannabis helps you medicinally, in some way or another.
There are so many women, like myself, who use cannabis as medicine to manage a variety of health conditions, including:
- Chronic pain
- IBS, UC, Chron’s
- And other health conditions
Alternatively, many women turn to cannabis during their first trimester due to severe hyperemesis gravidarum, as I did.
Would we ask these women to cut their prescription medication use cold turkey just because they became pregnant?
No, of course not! This is why it is crazy to ask or expect women who use medical cannabis to do the same.
Medical conditions that are well managed with cannabis provide a very valid reason to choose to continue cannabis use during pregnancy, and this fact needs to be discussed with your doctor.
Protect Yourself First
The very first thing I did when I made the decision to continue to use cannabis during my pregnancy was to sign up for my medical marijuana card.
It was actually incredibly easy, it only took a 15-minute Zoom call with a doctor, and I was certified within an hour.
And let me tell you, that was the best $150 I had ever spent because it offered me legal protection in the state of New York.
It also made that first dreaded conversation with my midwife SO much easier.
The scariest day was when I told my midwife that I was a medical cannabis patient (at the first appointment where they test your pee for all sorts of things, including THC).
I remember working myself up before the appointment: replaying how I thought the conversation should go in my head a million times the night before.
I was literally shaking in the office before I blurted out, “I’m a medical patient”.
I got lucky and had a very supportive midwife.
She knew I was suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, and she really left me in charge to make the decisions I felt were right for me and my baby.
In my opinion, she seemed so relieved that I had my medical card, that she didn’t really care about anything else, including how I used it or how often.
My experience goes to show that not all healthcare providers have biases when it comes to cannabis consumption during pregnancy, and many believe cannabis is a better option in certain situations.
I know not all doctors will have the same reaction, but if you are scared about having that first conversation, starting with a medical card may really help the experience go smoothly.
*Please note that this is only my personal experience, and I cannot say that a medical card will be enough legal protection in every state.
How to Talk To Your Doctor
Having the cannabis talk with your doctor or other provider is scary but necessary.
As you prepare for your appointment, here are a few things to keep in mind.
“Evidence-based medicine is the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence, primarily from clinical trials, in making decisions about the care of individual patients" 1.
So what do doctors do when there is no evidence-based information to go by?
Healthcare professionals are trained to interpret data and make critical thinking decisions based on the limited evidence available.
They are trained to use their best clinical judgment.
So the next logical step for healthcare providers (and you can remind them of this) is to make a shift to patient-centered care.
Patient-centered care means:
“Providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions” 2.
This means that cannabis use during pregnancy must be decided on a case-by-case basis.
This means that your provider must take into consideration the YOUR mental and physical health, along with a variety of other factors.
Receiving patient-centered care is easier said than done, as many healthcare professionals still retain implicit bias against cannabis consumers.
“Implicit biases involve associations outside conscious awareness that lead to a negative evaluation of a person on the basis of irrelevant characteristics such as race or gender" 3.
Ultimately, if your doctor is not supportive of your decision to use cannabis during your pregnancy, it is important to remember that:
- YOU are the mother
- YOU are the customer
- You can go find another doctor who IS supportive of your needs
Choose Safer Options
If you have gotten this far and are finally feeling more confident in your decision to use cannabis during your pregnancy, I am happy for you.
I know that there is no shortage of guilt that comes along with your decision.
As you move forward, know that you do have the power to make choices that are better for your health and the health of your baby.
One of the biggest concerns associated with cannabis use in pregnancy is the physical act of smoking, which no question has it’s drawbacks.
When I found out I was pregnant, that was the first thing I wanted to stop doing was smoking.
Thankfully, there are so many different ways to use cannabis that can help mothers find relief without smoking.
However, keep in mind that some medical cannabis dispensaries may discriminate against pregnant women.
I would advise you to hide your pregnancy, opt for at-home delivery if possible, or stock up on products before you begin to show.
Your Body, Your Choice
As we wrap up, I want you to know that’s your body, your baby, and your choice throughout your whole pregnancy (even if it doesn’t feel like it).
You are the mother, and for the next two decades, you and only you will be tasked with making a million important decisions for your child.
You are the mother TODAY, and you have the right to choose the option that is best for YOU and YOUR health because, ultimately, that has the biggest impact on the health of your baby.
Healthy moms = healthy babies.
I believe there is no stronger force than a mother's intuition.
I also know it is very hard to tune in and listen to that natural wisdom when society is constantly telling you that you are making the wrong choice.
But you are strong, you are smart, you are educated, and you are the mother.
You get to make the choice, and if you’re here today, I know that you will make the right one because you care about your health and the health of your baby.
So, congratulations on your pregnancy!
I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you go on to raise an amazing tiny human that is going to do amazing things in this world.
Meet Ronan Max
P.S. Now that it is all said and done, my baby, Ronan, is COMPLETELY fine. He will be one year old in June 2022.
He is smart, he is sweet, and he meets and exceeds all of his milestones. He was wanted, and he is so, so loved by everyone, especially his big brother, Ransom.
I have zero regrets about choosing to use cannabis during my pregnancy, and I hope you, too, can say that in the future.