Written by Delilah Butterfield
During pregnancy, some women throw up. A lot. Chronic nausea and vomiting are common among pregnant women, but for women with a rare condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, nausea and vomiting become so intense that they lead to hospitalization. Not only does this incessant vomiting put the mother at risk, but it also means that the baby may not get the vital nutrients it needs to grow healthy and strong. To put an end to their suffering, some moms are turning to cannabis, no matter the hazard.
Earlier in 2017, Dr. Nora Valkow, director of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published an op-ed that discouraged pregnant women from using cannabis to manage debilitating symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
In her piece, Valkow calls out cannabis blogs for discussing the herb as a remedy for some of these ailments, writing,
[…] some sources on the internet are touting marijuana as a solution for the nausea that commonly accompanies pregnancy, including the severe condition hyperemesis gravidarum.
Although research on the prevalence of marijuana use by pregnant women is limited, some data suggest that this population is turning to marijuana for its anti-emetic properties, particularly during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is the greatest period of risk for the deleterious effect of drug exposure to the fetus.
Well, though it may be concerning to those at NIDA, more mothers are coming out about their choice to use cannabis to manage nausea while pregnant. Against doctor’s orders, mothers are using cannabis for severe conditions like hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).
Hyperemesis gravidarum is a rare and extreme form of morning sickness that affects around 2 percent of pregnant women. This condition causes intense nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte imbalance. In difficult cases, this can lead to hospitalization and intravenous nutrition.
In a recent post for Circa, one woman, renamed Jessica by author Fernando Hurtado, opened up about how she first learned about cannabis and how to use it to manage her hyperemesis gravidarum.
Prior to cannabis, Jessica vomited over a dozen times per day. She explains,
Usually about 10 to 15 times a day was the average. It caused me to be hospitalized, I would have to have home healthcare with IVs.
Jessica, a California resident, did not read about the herb on a cannabis blog. Rather, her doctor mentioned medical cannabis after Jessica had gone through all of her options with her three pregnancies. This came as a surprise to the expecting mother,
I was a little shocked. We were just kind of at a standstill with what else we can try out there.
In their investigation, Circa stumbled upon a closed Facebook group for women with HG. Currently, the group has over 9,800 members. Though the group is not specifically for medical cannabis consumers, many women have discussed their experience with the herb.
As Circa reports, one woman in the group had been so desperate for symptom relief that she was considering aborting her planned child until trying cannabis.
Another mom explained that she is a schoolteacher and she was fearful that her child would be taken away if she was found consuming cannabis while pregnant.
Losing the right to care for their own children is a very real risk for cannabis consuming moms. In many states, getting caught consuming cannabis while pregnant will earn you a visit from child protective services.
Legislators in the state of Wyoming have recently introduced a bill (HB 215) that would crack down on women who use drugs while pregnant. If a fetus dies after being exposed to prenatal drug use, a mother can be subject to 10 years in prison.
The overall risks of prenatal cannabis use are unknown, yet research on the subject is more divided than you might expect. Still, moms like Jessica feel that cannabis helped save their pregnancies with no obvious negative health effects. She tells Circa,
It’s funny because when you see my kids now, and they’re all ahead of the curve. They’re ahead of their milestones.