A recent finding suggests that using marijuana to treat morning sickness may actually harm the developing brain of the fetus. This finding was presented at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics's annual Experimental Biology conference held in Orlando over the weekend by Dr. Vishnu Suppiramaniam's laboratory at Auburn University, according to eurekalert.org. This finding comes from a study conducted in rats, but it mirrors the findings from clinical studies.
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Babies born to mothers who used marijuana use during the first trimester are more likely to be anemic and have a lower birth weight. Other studies show that babies born to a mother who used marijuana use during pregnancy grew into children with impaired impulse control, poor attention skills, and overall problems with learning and memory.
Researchers in the current study examined the brains of the baby rats born to mothers exposed to a synthetic version of marijuana. They found a reduction of synapses in the hippocampus. Furthermore, they were able to trace this deficit to a decrease in neural cell adhesion molecules (NCAM), a protein which helps to maintain synaptic strength. This is a critical period for brain development, so anything that damages neuronal connections at this point could have very detrimental consequences.
Mechanistic research in this field is in its infancy (no pun intended). Nevertheless, clinical findings are beginning to paint a picture of the deleterious effects of maternal marijuana use during any time in their pregnancy, and it does not look good. While it may be an anti-mimetic and actually help expecting mothers with morning sickness, the risks to the fetus are high. Some researchers suggest that it may even disrupt normal development of the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Unfortunately, with the increase in the prevalence of marijuana use concurrent with legalization, the rate of marijuana use during pregnancy has increased. Legalization has legitimized the idea that it is safe for everyone. What's more, medical dispensaries may be helping to perpetuate this myth by advising pregnant women to use marijuana to help with morning sickness.
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The science regarding the safety of marijuana is ever-evolving. This newsletter previously published a piece suggesting that CBDs were safe to use during pregnancy, and, at the time, it was based on current research. So it would seem that while CBDs may be safe the same cannot be said of smoking the entire plant. Of note, however, is that marijuana use in Jamaica in pregnant women and this does not seem to harm the baby. However, while this is a very interesting observation, there is still very little, if any, scientific research into this phenomenon.
Avoidance of many substances while pregnant has been advised by clinicians for quite some time. No alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, prescription drugs, sweets, carbs, fat, etc. Marijuana may have to be added to the list. But it would be only temporary - just a period of 18 years (oh, plus those nine months).
Sources: eurekalert.org, JAMA, BMJ Open, Future Neurology, 2019 Experimental Biology - Abstracts, Neuroscience, European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Reproduction, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, CPR.org, LabRoots.com, The West Indian Medical Journal, Pediatrics