It’s no secret that moms and pregnant women are closely watched for cannabis use.
Since it is unethical to study or experiment on pregnant women, and also because of the 50-year moratorium on cannabis research in the United States, very little hard data is available to show how the herb affects the health of pregnant women and their offspring.
One of the places moms turn to when they have questions or concerns about cannabis is the internet. The safety and anonymity of online support groups offer mothers respite from the judgment women receive from both mainstream society and doctors’ offices.
“The dissonance around cannabis use during pregnancy between national health organizations and scientific evidence has led pregnant women to seek out safety information themselves,” write the authors of a new cannabis study. and pregnancy. “The lack of guidance to providers regarding cannabis use during pregnancy leaves mothers to expect to seek out safety information themselves.”
If a woman is honest with her nurse or doctor that she is using cannabis, then in many states they can test her without her consent. She can then ask Child Protective Services to perform wellness checks on her while she is in hospital and at home. She may also be forced to be on a list of “negligent women,” depending on the state. This title has long been attested to by mothers who use cannabis and work to de-stigmatize the plant. As more weed-friendly mothers come out of the woodwork or out of hiding safely in plain sight, intense discrimination continues.
In a recent journal titled “‘Ganja Mamas’: Online Discussions of Cannabis Use During Pregnancy“, scientists from New York University and the University of Miami School of Nursing studied the subject of comments and messages in a support group on whattoexpect.com called “Ganja Mamas”. The study researchers are Cynthia Lebron, of the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies; Vanessa Morales, University of Miami School of Medicine; Shantal Saenz, New York University; and Denise Vidot of the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Sciences and the University of Miami School of Medicine.
A small group of 131 women were studied for the review. It reviewed the content of 151 original posts and 1,260 corresponding comments posted over a 7-day period. The results show that people are looking for information and simply have nowhere to go, and are creating their own safe online space to ask questions.
4.7% of pregnant women in the United States admit to using cannabis, according to data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2019. Among women in eight states who had a recent live birth, 9.8 % said they used cannabis before pregnancy, 4.2% during pregnancy and 5.5% after pregnancy, according to a 2020 study. But self-reported estimates can be low and reflect half or less of the truth. Self-reporting in a doctor’s office, when telling the truth could mean the CPS knocking on your door, means that many women feel like they can’t be completely honest in this environment.
“Online support forums allow mothers who use cannabis to ask questions and receive answers from other mothers who have been through similar situations, especially those living in their condition,” write the authors of the study. “Mothers sought specific geographic experiences, guidance on testing and involvement of child protective services as well as guidance on the amount and different methods of cannabis use during pregnancy.”
The study results dig deeper into what pregnant women ask in anonymous online forums. “The main topics that members sought information on were testing, state-specific questions, postpartum, child protective services (CPS), hospital-specific questions, birth announcements, methods of cannabis use, quitting, breastfeeding/pumping, pregnancy symptoms, mental issues. health, general health and pregnancy, and amount of cannabis use. Among the women’s clustered responses, the researchers found conversations focused around “congratulations and relief, and hiding cannabis use and symptoms.”
Harvard professor and primary care physician Dr. Peter Grinspoon says he’s “very cautious” about all substances for pregnant women because there’s so little solid research. “I do not recommend anyone use cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding unless there is a serious medical reason, if what you are prescribed would be more harmful.”
Studies that have found cannabis harmful to infants or babies in utero often ignore factors that coincide with cannabis use: tobacco, alcohol, and poor diet due to poverty. “We have very little clean data proving the harms of cannabis and pregnancy,” says Dr. Grinspoon. “At the same time, we don’t know if it’s safe.”
Health professionals often err on the side of caution when it comes to pregnancy, as there are no studies on the results of using the herb in utero. Low birth weight is often presented as one of the possible side effects. A study has debunked data on cannabis as a cause of low birth weight in infants. He found that cannabis was impossible to disentangle from other “psychosocial and behavioral factors, including stress, smoking, and late or no prenatal care.”
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