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Canadian study pinpoints main reason pregnant women use cannabis

Dec 21, 2021 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

McMaster researchers wanted to get a clear picture of why pregnant and lactating people decide to not use or to use cannabis — something reportedly on the rise — and how these motivations change across perinatal stages.

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Canadian researchers exploring why women use cannabis during pregnancy and lactation found their motivation appears to be very much in line with consumption before learning about their pregnancies, namely controlling for things such as pain, anxiety and nausea.

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“Our findings have very little resonance with evidence on motivations for cannabis use identified in non-pregnant populations, suggesting that motivations for use during pregnancy and lactation are unique,” explains Dr. Meredith Vanstone, a co-author of the study out of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

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The reasons cited by study participants “more closely match those identified in studies of medical cannabis use, such as for controlling pain, anxiety, depression, muscle spasms, nausea or appetite, and for sleep,” Dr. Vanstone reports in a statement from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), adding that many women use marijuana “to manage multiple symptoms.”

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McMaster researchers wanted to get a clear picture of both why pregnant and lactating people decide to not use or to use cannabis — something reportedly on the rise — and how these motivations change across perinatal stages.

Published this week in the CMAJ, investigators sought to reveal some reasons behind consumption “despite clinical evidence showing that cannabis use may be associated with low birth weight and childhood developmental deficits.”

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To do so, they interviewed 52 individuals (51 one identifying as women; one identifying as non-binary) from across the country. All participants had used cannabis, had been pregnant or lactating within the past year and had decided to continue, cease or decrease marijuana use during the perinatal period.

What were the motivations for stopping or continuing to use cannabis?

Upon finding out they were pregnant, some subjects stopped immediately because of fear of harm to the fetus, some stopped because of social stigma, guilt and health reasons and some continued to consume.

What researchers found was that before pregnancy, women basically gave about equal weight to three motivations: sensation-seeking for fun and enjoyment, symptom relief of chronic conditions and coping with unpleasant life experiences.

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However, a shift occurred during both pregnancy and during lactation. For the former, “reasons for use shifted primarily to symptom management;” for the latter, “reasons returned to resemble those expressed before pregnancy.”

The study authors suggest that “the dynamic nature of the reasons for use across stages speaks to participant perception of benefits and risks, and perhaps a desire to cast cannabis use during pregnancy as therapeutic because of perceived stigma.”

Even so, given “the absence of high-quality evidence available to guide practice,” the study recommends counselling exploring why patients are considering cannabis use may prove a “helpful strategy to minimize potential harm.”

Doctors need to better understand why women consume weed

Says Dr. Vanstone: “I think it’s important for physicians to understand that people who use cannabis during pregnancy are often doing so because they perceive important benefits of cannabis for controlling a variety of symptoms.”

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An opportunity may exist for doctors to help patients find alternatives that we know are safe for both mom and baby,” she adds.

Existing research is all over the place when it comes to how cannabis use affects individuals who use cannabis and their offspring.

This fall, U.S. researchers conducted an analysis of 763 pre-term infants of mothers who use cannabis and found no short-term impact on infant health. A month earlier, researchers looking at women who delivered their babies at a Los Angeles hospital determined that cannabis consumers were more likely to have ceasarean births, smaller children and offspring requiring neonatal oxygen use.

Enhanced awareness is likely needed for both women and their physicians. In September, survey results were released that showed a potential knowledge gap when it comes to understanding the possible risks associated with consuming cannabis while pregnant.

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