We are more than familiar with the dangers of both smoking and drinking alcohol while pregnant, but how much do we about the use of cannabis? This is a relatively new subject, and in fact, would benefit from further research.
Recently, hundreds of health care professionals gathered to listen to different presentations about this particular topic. Sarah Konefal was one of the guest speakers. She is a research and policy analyst with the Canadian Centre of Substance Use and Addiction. CBC’s Conrad Collaco took the chance to speak to her about what possible effect cannabis could have on pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Although we still have a lot to learn, we know that frequent or daily cannabis use during pregnancy can increase the chance of low birth weight. On top of that, cannabis use in pregnancy is associated with future problems with ADHD and a range of other cognitive effects in children and young adults. This may even contribute to problems with achieving academic or professional qualifications.
On this occasion the risk of alcohol and tobacco use had not been factored in, the assessment hinges entirely on smoking cannabis. At this moment in time, we are not sure how a pregnant woman drinking Cannabis tea or ingesting Cannabis in another way can affect her. Determining how it affects breastfeeding is a further factor which still needs to be considered.
When a woman uses cannabis while pregnant, data tells us that she is likely to carry on doing so while breastfeeding. Can the psychoactive ingredient THC be transferred to the baby via the breast milk? The answer to that question is that it can be. Subsequently, there is an increased risk that THC can affect the brain and cause problems with the baby’s nervous system.
Early indications seem to show there is less of a risk associated with cannabis use when compared to both alcohol and tobacco. Of course, this all depends on how much cannabis you use and how frequently you use cannabis. The spectrum of side effects can range from the more serious to the not so serious depending on how much cannabis is used during pregnancy.
However, the low use of cannabis can to a certain extent be compared to alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
One of the problems with research into cannabis use during pregnancy is that it is hard to determine how much the mother used. Most cannabis users do not weigh or otherwise control the amount they use on each occasion. For research purposes, it makes it hard to determine if any effects are derived from low or high use of cannabis. The problem is that this contributes to a varied range of results and findings.
Most medical studies are based on exact findings, but this is not easy to achieve when you deal with private individuals who smoke cannabis outside of controlled conditions. At the same time, it is worth pointing out that occasional use may not have any effects at all.
Health care providers are still confused about the right advice ti to give to mothers. There is no evidence of what can be called a safe amount and it could be best to avoid cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding. Other factors may come into play as well. Some prescription medication can affect the way cannabis behaves when pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are concerned about your usage, it is always best to seek advice.
Unfortunately, there is very little research available. Cannabis was illegal for a long time and no research took place. A study which took place in 2012 seemed to indicate that 2% of pregnant women thought that cannabis was risky to use and 70% indicated alcohol was also a perceived risk.
However, when it comes to cannabis, many factors come into play such as the strain of the plant and other factors such as growing conditions. Plants grown under certain conditions produce more cannabinoids.
There are many things to take into considering and we are only just beginning to learn more about cannabis. Hopefully, studies will soon be carried out on both the use of Cannabis and CBD.