Mothers-to-be using cannabis during pregnancy: What are the effects considering the future?

Pregnant women are reportedly using marijuana during pregnancy to treat symptoms such as morning sickness and anxiety.

Singapore: Couple opens home to pregnant women amidst Zika threat

Pregnant women nowadays are actively using cannabis to treat morning sickness, anxiety, and nausea, as well as, help themselves through childbirth, according to Center for Disease Control (CDC) which says that about 16.2 per cent of pregnant women aged between 18 and 44 years use marijuana nearly every day.

While the use of cannabis during pregnancy is a growing discussion in the US, a medical opinion is still undecided on its safety due to very few studies on the effects of CBD and THC on fetuses.

In states such as New York and Colorado, cannabis use while pregnant, even in small doses, is enough to flag Child Protective Services and prompt them to issue a warning to future mothers.

"This ain't your mother's marijuana," said US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, in a warning to pregnant women. Adams encouraged physicians to learn all they could about marijuana to tackle the issue of growing cannabis use in the country.

Oregon Health Authority in a 2014 warning about the harms of using pot around children said that the THC in marijuana could "pass into your baby when you are pregnant or breastfeeding". They further mentioned that cannabis used during pregnancy could lead to premature birth and low birth weight.

A study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California said that cannabis use among pregnant mothers nearly doubled between 2009 and 2016, which impaired "fetal growth and neurodevelopment".

California researcher Kelly Young-Wolff, a lead researcher of the Kaiser Permanente study, said "public perception that cannabis is harmless is increasing" as more and more states moved to legalize cannabis.

Alison Osborn, 32, mentioned that she smoked marijuana in small amounts throughout her pregnancy to help with stress, anxiety, and discomfort.

Osborn, a regular smoker for about 13 years decided to start "hitting a vape pen twice a week" after talking with her doctor about using cannabis in small amounts. "It took a literal and metaphorical weight off the pregnancy."

Megon Dee-Cave, 35, said cannabis use during childbirth helped lessen the pain of her contractions, which were not "as long or as intense".

"I started out at a low dose -- right around 35 milligrams -- just to kind of test it out. As the labour intensified, I dosed myself up a little bit higher," she was quoted as saying by Willamette Week.

Dee-Cave now hopes to destigmatize cannabis for other expectant mothers and currently offers consulting services on integrating weed into pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Committee suggested that physicians ask all pregnant women about their marijuana use for non-medical reasons.

The findings from a population-based survey of nearly 200,000 children whose mothers smoked marijuana suggested maternal marijuana use before and during pregnancy were associated with externalizing problems among offspring, often leading to aggressive and rule-breaking behavior as they grew older.

A University of Maryland School of Medicine study said prenatal exposure to THC made the brain's dopamine neurons (an integral component of the reward system) hyperactive and increased sensitivity to the behavioral effects of THC during pre-adolescence.

"This may contribute to the increased risk of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia later in adolescence," suggested the study published in journal Nature Neuroscience.