Yerba-Buena, Babies & More

The medicinal use of cannabis seems to make many of us uncomfortable. No matter how effective or safe it is, it just seems “dirty” to people for whom “recreational street drug” is a fearful prospect. It makes you feel high or euphoric or relaxed, which is either wrong or, at best, unnecessary.

I really think it’s simply the idea that one might take a substance for pain relief or anti-nausea help and also enjoy the feeling it gives them that makes the American public so squeamish; medicine is supposed to taste yucky and be kind of unpleasant, or there’s something dangerous about it.

My personal belief is that cannabis is a beautiful plant sent to us by the Heavenly Father to cure our ills and make us love one another. But, science: Given how powerful an anti-emetic cannabis is, we need to talk about its potential for safe treatment of morning sickness. I’ve been reading so many accounts of women who suffer for months with hyperemesis, garden-variety morning sickness (which sucks!) or other pregnancy symptoms like back pain, insomnia or RLS. So many of them would probably never consider puffing a little cannabis for relief because they assume, or “common sense” tells them, that marijuana causes miscarriage or retardation. So, read on for some starting points to do your own research on whether medical MJ is safe enough for you, personally, to use.

Note: Many studies don’t adjust for cannabis use on its own, instead lumping cannabis in with drugs like cocaine and alcohol, which have their own deleterious effects on babies. This is why Jamaican studies are valuable, because they’re often able to isolate cannabis use in ways American studies can’t or don’t.
  • 1991 study of rural Jamaican kids by Florida researchers showed “no significant differences in developmental testing outcomes between children of marijuana-using and non-using mothers except at 30 days of age when the babies of users had more favourable scores on two clusters of the Brazelton Scales: autonomic stability and reflexes” (Hayes et al.)
  • Van Gelder et al. (2010) found that “[p]regnant users of cannabis, cocaine, and stimulants were younger, had a lower level of education and lower household income, and were less likely to have used folic acid in the periconceptional period than nonusers”. Of cannabis use on its own (without concurrent use of cocaine and/or “stimulants”), they reported that it “does not seem to be associated with low birth weight or preterm birth“.
  • Studies done in 1990 (Fried & Watkinson) and 1994 (Day et al.) reported deficits in memory, verbal and perceptual skills, and verbal and visual reasoning in three- and four-year-old children of women who had used marijuana “heavily” during pregnancy.
  • Several studies (Gray, Day, Leech, & Richardson, 2005; Leech, Larkby, Day, & Day, 2006) have linked perinatal cannabis exposure to a greater incidence of depressive and anxious symptomatology at age 10 compared to children of non-users.
  • A 1994 study published in Pediatrics (Dreher et al) looked at “neurobehavioral effects of prenatal marijuana exposure on neonates in rural Jamaica”. Newborns (24 exposed and 20 nonexposed to cannabis in utero) were tested at 3 days and 1 month old using the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale. Day 3 results showed no significant differences between the groups; at one month, “the exposed neonates showed better physiological stability and required less examiner facilitation to reach organized states. The neonates of heavy-marijuana-using mothers had better scores on autonomic stability, quality of alertness, irritability, and self-regulation and were judged to be more rewarding for caregivers”.


My next project: tackling the thorny, gorgeous subject of cannabis for childbirth.