Women are using marijuana to cope with pregnancy symptoms like nausea even though the FDA warns against it

Marijuana use in pregnancy is on the rise, according to research.

caption
Marijuana use in pregnancy is on the rise, according to research.
source
Hollis Johnson/Samantha Lee/INSIDER

  • But some women are still choosing to self-medicate with cannabis during pregnancy to cope with symptoms like nausea.
  • This isn’t the only population that’s turned to the substance to help with queasiness. Some people with cancer use it to decrease chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
  • Research has found that marijuana use during pregnancy could lead to lower birth weights and brain changes in babies.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more.

On October 16, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a statement about the dangers of using CBD and THC, two of the main compounds found in cannabis, while pregnant or breastfeeding.

“FDA strongly advises against the use of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and marijuana in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding,” the agency said in its statement.

Still, some women are choosing to self-medicate with cannabis during and after pregnancy to cope with symptoms like nausea, pain, and postpartum depression sans prescription.

While the substance has been shown to help such symptoms in other populations, like cancer patients who have chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, using it during pregnancy and breastfeeding comes with risks and a lot of unknowns.

Marijuana use during pregnancy is increasingly common

As more women turn to marijuana during and after pregnancy as a way to cope with nausea, pain, and postpartum depression sans prescription, the FDA's warning is becoming increasingly applicable.

caption
As more women turn to marijuana during and after pregnancy as a way to cope with nausea, pain, and postpartum depression sans prescription, the FDA’s warning is becoming increasingly applicable.
source
Julia Wheeler and Veronika Laws/Getty Images

According to a January 2019 letter in JAMA Pediatrics that’s based on a 2018 national drug survey, marijuana use during pregnancy in the U.S. has increased over the past 14 years, from 2.9% in 2002 to 5% in 2016.

Doctors haven’t pinpointed exactly why women are increasingly turning to the substance, but believe it’s mainly in order to cope with to classic pregnancy symptoms like nausea and vomiting, which crop up in an estimated 70% of pregnancies, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

A 2014 analysis of more than 4,700 women in Hawaii found that their odds of prenatal marijuana use were higher if they experienced nausea during their pregnancies.

There are also anecdotal reports supporting the theory that women are using marijuana to ease pregnancy symptoms.

“I used marijuana during pregnancy to ease my nausea as well as to help me sleep,” Laiken, 26, who asked to be identified by her first name only to protect her identity, previously told Insider in an email. “It seemed I was constantly up at night and part of that was [because of] nausea.”

Laiken said she first tried anti-nausea medications for her morning sickness, but they didn’t help so she turned to marijuana, which she already used before getting pregnant. During pregnancy, she decreased her usage to two or three times per day when she felt the nausea come on and consumed it either by taking an oral oil or smoking it in a pipe.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a combination of vitamin B6 and the sleep aid doxylamine to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

This isn’t the only population that’s found marijuana can help with queasiness, though. Some people with cancer use the substance to decrease chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. And, it’s been shown to work well for this purpose.

Marijuana use could affect a baby’s development, but more research needs to be done

Some studies have shown that marijuana use during pregnancy can affect a child's brain development.

caption
Some studies have shown that marijuana use during pregnancy can affect a child’s brain development.
source
Hollis Johnson/INSIDER

Despite marijuana’s known ability to decrease symptoms like nausea and vomiting, using the substance during pregnancy comes with health risks and a lot of unknowns.

The U.S. Surgeon General recently put out a warning regarding marijuana use during pregnancy, sharing research that such use has been linked to lower birth weights. One June 2018 study in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, found that women who reported using it during their pregnancies had a 50% chance of lower birth weights.

Some research has shown that marijuana use during pregnancy can affect a child’s brain development. These studies found children of people who used marijuana during pregnancy had lower IQs, attention problems, and more impulsiveness compared to children whose mothers didn’t use marijuana while pregnant.

Still, “what we know today is pretty sparse,” Kjersti Aagard, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and professor at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, previously told INSIDER. “We don’t have the long-term studies to really examine that carefully from a public health perspective.”

Until more research is done, health experts recommend expecting moms abstain from marijuana use.