A new study shows more young moms-to-be are using marijuana to relieve morning sickness—but it's not recommended for pregnant women.

By Hollee Actman Becker
December 20, 2016
Credit: Shutterstock

Moms are turning to marijuana to cure nausea, according to a study in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), and they argue weed might be a safer option than prescription drugs for morning sickness. On the flip side, the American Medical Association insists that taking marijuana during pregnancy is dangerous and is pushing for regulations that will make pregnant women think twice before lighting up. In fact, according to an NBC report, studies have linked marijuana use during pregnancy to childhood attention problems, low birth weight, premature birth, and behavioral issues in children. 

A Rise in Weed Use During Pregnancy

The JAMA study found that about 4 percent of pregnant women admitted they used weed during pregnancy in 2014—a rate that was up from 2.4 percent in 2002. That's a 62 percent increase! The study also found women aged 18 to 25 were the ones most likely to light up. You should also keep in mind those are self-reported stats; the number may very well be higher. According to marijuana seed retail site Royal Queens Seeds, most pregnant women who use marijuana are smoking it—because while pregnancy cravings often include things like cookies and brownies, women with extreme nausea might not be able to stomach weed-laced baked goods.

But there are definitely still supporters of marijuana as a morning sickness cure who say that there's little evidence of harm. After all, there's been scientific evidence to suggest that alcohol is more dangerous during pregnancy than marijuana is—that doesn't mean weed is necessarily safe for pregnant women, but it is worth noting.

The Risk of Marijuana for Morning Sickness

This is undoubtedly a controversial topic but as of right now, the AMA is adamant that all marijuana use should be avoided during pregnancy. Alexandra Schmidt, D.O., an Ob-Gyn in Boca Raton, FL, cited impaired nuerodevelopment, smaller birth size, and even stillbirth as possible dangers of smoking marijuana for morning sickness.

Dr. Schmidt also points out that there's a big difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. "If you're getting it on the street, you can't be sure what you're getting," she says. "The true risks are not known at this time." Before even considering the controversial drug, Dr. Schmidt urges pregnant women to try more conventional morning sickness cures first, like vitamin B6 and ginger.

Comments (1)

February 1, 2019
The AMA needs to evolve and realize that women are using cannabis. The rates at which women use cannabis throughout the perinatal period are certainly higher than the ones reported because laws and fear of CPS involvement is substantial among this demographic. There are risks associated with using any substance during this period - pregnancy, breastfeeding, and beyond. The pharmaceutical medications that are readily prescribed to pregnant women who are experiencing nausea/vomiting carry risks too. Zofran, diclegis - both have significant side effects and because women are precluded from clinical drug trials driven mainly by ethical considerations. Zofran is not advised to treat nausea and vomiting in the UK and Australia, yet it is prescribed here. The recommendation is based on animal studies and there are no adequate or well-controlled studies conducted in pregnant women. The drug is not advised for use during the first trimester, yet it is prescribed. It causes significant constipation and has been linked to birth defects. Diclegis is considered safe by the medical establishment, but the side effect profile is really challenging for women to manage. Drowsiness is the most significant side effect which does not allow for a pregnant woman to go about her day as she needs to which may include driving, working, and caring for other children. If she is breastfeeding and also pregnant, it is advised that she does not use either drug. Too often, women end up suffering and risk losing their pregnancies in these circumstances, because functional solutions are not determined. It would be better to further the research on cannabis use and to determine why women use cannabis during pregnancy. It would also be better to look at all forms of cannabis use and realize that it has therapeutic value. We need more evidence, yes. So let's put more energy into finding out the pros and cons of cannabis use. The focus on harms perpetuates harm. Pregnant women have and will continue to use cannabis despite these recommendations. These recommendations put pregnant women at risk because they don't have qualified health providers to guide them when they choose alternatives. Choosing to use a prescribed medicine carries risks and a pregnant woman will typically determine if the benefits of taking a med outweigh those risks with the help and oversight of her health provider. Cannabis use should be treated in the same way.