Cannabis consumption during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding tends to be at the forefront of our concerns as cannabis using moms, given the uncertainty and absolute dread of inadvertently hurting our growing babies. In order to relieve ourselves of this fear, guilt and shame, we went on a quest to find research on cannabis use in motherhood. 

Although we do not have an abundance of clinical research (given the clear moral concerns), there are key papers that provide a wealth of information in regards to cannabis use in pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. We personally based our decisions on these papers, and so it is incredibly important to us, to share these findings with all mothers who have similar concerns. As we like to say, oftentimes the information is out there, you just need to know where to look!

This blog compiles key research papers on cannabis use during pregnancy. To view the research we have collected on cannabis use during breastfeeding, click here.

1. Totality of the Evidence Suggests Prenatal Cannabis Exposure Does Not Lead to Cognitive Impairments: A Systematic and Critical Review

By: Ciara A. Torres, Christopher Medina-Kirchner, Kate Y. O’Malley and Carl L. Hart

Published: Frontiers in Psychology, May 8, 2020 

This paper is a review of multiple studies that have been published in peer-reviewed journals concerning cannabis exposure during gestation (pregnancy). More than a dozen studies observing exposed children from ages 0 to 22 years olds were reviewed. The results of this analysis are as follows; exposed children were observed performing differently than the non-exposed children on a small number of cognitive measures such as vocabulary, reasoning, and memory. 3.4% performed more poorly, and 0.9% performed better than the non-exposed control group; however, when compared to normative data (in other words, the range of expected, healthy development) no differences were observed, as the children fell well within the normal range. Therefore, the authors conclude that the current evidence does not support the narrative that cannabis exposure during pregnancy leads to negative cognitive development in children. 

Read the full scientific paper here.

2. Medicinal Use of Cannabis in Children and Pregnant Women

By: Gideon Koren, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., F.A.C.M.T., and Rana Cohen, B.Sc. Pharm., M.B.A.

Published: Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, January 30, 2020

What does this paper say about pregnancy?

As cannabis is known to be an antiemetic (anti-nausea) for cancer patients, pregnant womxn suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (extreme nausea and vomiting in pregnancy) have taken it upon themselves to self-medicate with cannabis. This paper refers to a 2006 study by Westfall et al., where 59 womxn self-reported cannabis use during pregnancy. Of those 59 womxn, 37 considered the cannabis to be “extremely effective” or “effective” in controlling their symptoms, as well as reporting a significant increase in quality of life per the PUQE Quality of Life scale. 

What does this paper say about pediatric use?

Given the ethical concerns over cannabis research in children, this paper pulled retrospective (after the fact) data from autism patients of the Shamir Hospital in Israel; who were taking a 20:1 ratio of CBD:THC oil from Tikun Olam Ltd. 53 children were observed, and parents noted the following improvement in rage attacks, hyperactivity, sleep problems, anxiety and mood problems, social communication and reciprocity issues; significant improvement 43.1%, mild to moderate improvement 31.4%, no change in 21.6%, and 3.9% a worsening of symptoms. The results of this review suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) may be a good treatment for autism with minor side effects. 

The authors specifically note that we cannot make definitive therapeutic or safety conclusions, given the low number of recruits in these studies.

Read the full scientific paper here.

3. Prenatal marijuana exposure and neonatal outcomes in Jamaica: an ethnographic study

By: M.C. Dreher, K. Nugent, R. Hudgins

Published: Pediatrics, September 1994

In the 1980s anthropologist Melanie Dreher, with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), observed Jamaican womxn during pregnancy, as well as their children postpartum; both at 1 day of age and at 1 month of age. Dreher conducted her study in Jamaica in order to eliminate as many of the environmental factors and co-drug/alcohol use concerns, since cannabis is culturally accepted in Jamaica. This meant that culturally, although Jamaican womxn may be more likely to consume cannabis, they did not typically partake in alcohol and illicit drugs during pregnancy out of concern for the baby. This was an important factor to consider, as many other studies on this subject  (predominantly in North America) included cigarettes and alcohol use amongst the cannabis using womxn in their studies. The final sample size included 24 exposed newborns, and 20 non-exposed. The following measures were observed; alertness, attention, responsiveness, general irritability, robustness and endurance, self-regulation and motor tone. The results are as follows; there were no differences in Apgar score at birth, and no differences observed on the measurement scales at 3 days old. At the 1 month mark, the exposed children (of heavy users) had significantly higher scores for orientation, autonomic stability and reflexes, and they were found to be less irritable. However, the authors associate this to better environmental influences, rather than the cannabis use during pregnancy. 

Read the full scientific paper here.

4. Five-year follow-up of rural Jamaican children whose mothers used marijuana during pregnancy

By: J.S. Hayes, R. Lampart, M.C. Dreher, L. Morgan

Published: West Indian Medical Journal, September 1991

This study is a follow-up to Melanie Dreher’s original Jamaica study (mentioned above). They were able to assess 44 of the original 52 children (both exposed and non-exposed to cannabis during pregnancy), on a variety of developmental outcomes at 4 and 5 years old. The purpose of this study was to look at the long-term effects of cannabis consumption during pregnancy, as studies prior to this had only assessed babies at birth. The researchers looked at the children’s development in the following areas; verbal, perceptual, quantitative, memory and motor skills. As well as behavioural temperament in the following areas, as reported by their primary caregiver; activity level, rhythmicity, social approach/withdrawal, adaptability, intensity of reactions, mood, threshold of response, distractibility, attention span and persistence. In order to counter environmental differences and influences, the children’s home environment was also assessed for a variety of developmental support such as stimulation through play and affection. The results are as follows; at four years old, once the environmental factors had been adjusted and taken into consideration, there were no developmental differences between the exposed and non-exposed children. At five years old, again no developmental differences between the exposed and non-exposed children was found. In fact, positive home environments were directly correlated to positive developmental outcomes; leading the authors to conclude “that the child who attends basic school regularly, is provided a variety of stimulating experiences at home, and who is encouraged to show mature behaviour […] has a profoundly better chance of performing at a higher level on the skills measured by the MSCA, whether or not the mother used marijuana during pregnancy.”

Read the full scientific paper here.

 *MSCA = McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities

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To read experiences from other moms, and how they came to their decision to use cannabis during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, join our community here.

Be sure to also check out cofounder Jordana’s journey to using cannabis during pregnancy here.

2 Comments
  1. Jordana_CoFounder 1 week ago

    This is so beautiful and well done. Great information! I know it will help all Mombers 🥰

  2. Nadine_MM Team 6 days ago

    I absolutely love how this piece is written 🙂

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