More pregnancy highs than
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
A new Canadian study suggests smoking marijuana
while pregnant is an effective way to combat morning sickness, though researchers
note the findings are far from conclusive.
Almost all of the B.C. women surveyed
at the University of Victoria and University of British Columbia said smoking
marijuana helped curb the nausea of pregnancy. The study's authors
say the research points to at least the possibility of an effective treatment
for a problem medical science has been largely unsuccessful in tackling.
Small amounts of marijuana would likely not do much harm to pregnant mothers,
suggests the study, just published in the journal Complementary Therapies
in Clinical Practice. More research into the idea is definitely warranted,
said Rachel Westfall, a fellow with the Michael Smith Foundation for Health
Research at UVic. "I thought: 'This is an interesting sociological experiment, where
women are going out and self-medicating with something that is really looked
down upon by society at large," she said. "Are people using it? The answer
is clearly yes and they think that it works."
Aided by Patricia Janssen,
an epidemiologist at UBC, Ms. Westfall studied 84 women who were part of
the Victoria and B.C. "compassion societies" -- unofficial, non-profit bodies
that dispense marijuana for medicinal purposes. Of those, 40 used cannabis
to treat pregnancy nausea and 37 of them -- over 92% -- rated it as "extremely
effective" or "effective." Ms. Westfall acknowledged the study had weaknesses
-- the subjects were all predisposed to feel cannabis had benefits, they
were reporting on past experience and there was no control group. A spokesman
for the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada said none of
the society's members could comment until they had examined the research.
The nausea and vomiting of pregnancy affect at least 50% of pregnant women.
Herbal remedies include ginger and peppermint. One of the few drugs designed
specifically to treat morning sickness combines vitamin B6 and an antihistamine.
She discovered that some women were using marijuana while researching a PhD
thesis on herbal cures used by pregnant women. And the literature has shown
it to be effective in treating nausea caused by chemotherapy and other factors.
The next step should be a population-based study -- one that surveys large
groups of randomly chosen women on marijuana use during pregnancy -- followed
by a clinical trial similar to those used to test pharmaceuticals, she said.
As to adverse effects, some studies have found that recreational marijuana
use leads to reduced birthweights, while others found no impact, the paper
said. With marijuana use being so widespread, "if there was some serious
developmental damage ... I think we would have seen it come up," said Phillipe
Lucas of the Victoria Compassion Society, which took part in the study. Some
evidence suggests that pregnant women could gain medicinal benefits with
just a puff or two a day, so research would have to look at the negative
impacts of only small doses, Ms. Westfall said.
© National Post 2006