A systematic review and meta-analysis found low quality evidence that some derivatives of marijuana may be effective in the prevention of nausea for people undergoing chemotherapy. Nausea is a medically approved indication for marijuana in all states where medical use of this drug has been legalized.
Recent investigation indicates that some pregnant people are choosing to utilize cannabinoid products to help with the "morning sickness" that frequently accompanies the first trimester of pregnancy, and continue beyond that in some cases including in cases of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (severe morning sickness that typically requires medical treatment.) First trimester marijuana use is of great concern due to the possibility of serious and potentially lifelong negative consequences on the developing embryo. Pregnancy data from Hawaii indicated that women with severe nausea during pregnancy were more likely to use marijuana, compared with other pregnant women (3.7% vs 2.3%, respectively).
Health care providers should not recommend marijuana as a treatment for nausea in pregnancy and should discourage recreational use as well. In 2015, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a committee opinion discouraging physicians from suggesting use of marijuana during preconception, pregnancy, and lactation.
Is the increase in pregnant people using marijuana a result of the increase in the number of states that have legalized medical marijuana? Is it a result of some states making marijuana legal in small amounts for recreational use, and it therefore is more accessible to everyone, including people suffering from morning sickness during pregnancy? There are no states that specifically list pregnancy-related conditions among the allowed recommendations for medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is not required to include warnings about the possible harms of marijuana to the fetus when the drug is used during pregnancy.
Why has the percentage of pregnant people using marijuana increased? Although the prevalence of past-month use among pregnant women (3.9%) is not high, the increases over time (2002-2014) and potential adverse consequences of prenatal marijuana exposure indicate that additional research is necessary.
Does the topic of marijuana use come up during your childbirth classes? Do families have questions about its use for morning sickness, pain relief or during lactation? How do you respond to these inquiries? I live in Washington state and we have had legal medical marijuana for several years and legal recreational marijuana use permitted for the last few years. Not a class goes by that this topic is not brought up by the families I work with. It is clear that use of marijuana products by pregnant people is on the rise. We would be remiss as educators and other professionals who work with people during the childbearing year, if we were not ready to answer their questions by sharing what we know, which is limited for sure. As you can imagine, it is not easy to obtain valid research on this topic, when there is the potential for harm to the fetus, newborn and child from marijuana by a pregnant parent during pregnancy.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2015). Committee Opinion, Marijuana use during pregnancy and lactation.# 637.
Brown, Q. L., Sarvet, A. L., Shmulewitz, D., Martins, S. S., Wall, M. M., & Hasin, D. S. (2016). Trends in Marijuana Use Among Pregnant and Nonpregnant Reproductive-Aged Women, 2002-2014. JAMA.
Volkow ND, Compton WM, Wargo EM. The Risks of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy. JAMA.2017;317(2):129-130. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.18612