Is it safe for women to use cannabis before, during, and after pregnancy? That question elicited interesting and strongly held views from three medical doctors with expertise in obstetrics and gynecology, pediatric medicine, preventive medicine and medical research.
Before getting into their insights on this sensitive topic, it’s worth noting that Florida’s medical marijuana law permits using low-THC medical marijuana during pregnancy. Still, such use must be under the care of a qualified medical marijuana physician. Adult use, or recreational marijuana, is illegal in Florida. Dr. Felecia L. Dawson, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, says she believes “cannabis in pregnancy can be safe if it's done properly,” while Drs. Charles Lewis and Kennessa W. Hugger warn expectant mothers to steer clear of it altogether.
Dr. Dawson mentions that a recent survey found cannabis to be more effective in treating hyperemesis gravidarum, or persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, than pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Lewis interjected and said, “Approximately 7% of women in the United States use marijuana during pregnancy, primarily for morning sickness.” Unfortunately, this is a time of very rapid development in the infant, so, it's a time of very high risk.
Dr. Lewis has practiced medicine for over 25 years and is board-certified in public health and preventive medicine. He also is a medical researcher who cites studies pointing to the risks of using cannabis during pregnancy.
Dr. Hugger, a board-certified pediatrician with more than 20 years of experience, who practices with Tallahassee Primary Care Associates, also advises against using marijuana before, during, and after pregnancy, especially if the mother is breastfeeding.
“The evidence, I think, supports discontinuing that practice while they are pregnant and breastfeeding,” she says. “THC does pass through the breast milk.”
THC also shows up in a newborn’s blood test, and “in the state of Florida, under the Child Abuse and Prevention Act, healthcare providers are mandatory reporters,” says Dr. Hugger. “So, if there's an infant born with an illicit substance in their system, then that mother does get reported to Child Protective Services.” Dr. Dawson says that while her cautious approach to the healthcare of pregnant women includes the use of medical cannabis, she first encourages them to detox their systems and to “eat organically, breathe clean air and drink clean water, work on stress management, pregnancy massage, meditation, therapy.”
“I never think that cannabis should be the first thing that a pregnant woman should reach for.”