Many pregnant women don’t think cannabis is harmful, UBC study finds

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A new report by researchers at the University of British Columbia has found that up to one-third of pregnant women believe it is safe to ingest cannabis during pregnancy.

The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, pored over data from six U.S. studies and found that some women considered cannabis safe because their health-care provider hadn’t communicated to them that it wasn’t.

Lead author Hamideh Bayrampour, assistant professor in the UBC department of family practice, said the study is important for public health officials to understand perceptions of cannabis use, especially since the drug became legal in Canada.

« What we looked at was perception, not actual risk, » Bayrampour said. 

When women were asked about their perception of general harm associated with cannabis use, 70 per cent of both pregnant and non-pregnant cannabis users responded that they perceived slight or no risk of harm.

In one study, when asked if they believed cannabis is harmful to a baby during pregnancy, 30 per cent of pregnant women responded « no. » When women were asked to identify substances most likely to harm the baby during pregnancy, 70 per cent chose alcohol, 16 per cent chose tobacco, while only two per cent chose cannabis.

« One of our review findings revealed that some people don’t consider cannabis to be a drug, » said Bayrampour.

Treat morning sickness

« With this in mind, it’s especially important for health-care providers to ask specific questions about cannabis use during pregnancy and breast feeding to help spark a productive conversation about the potential health impacts. »

The research found pregnant cannabis users were more likely to be under 25, unemployed, single and African American. Anxiety and depression were also associated with cannabis use while pregnant.

« Based on what we found, their motivation for use was … they wanted to treat their morning sickness, » Bayrampour said.

Health Canada requires cannabis companies to have warning labels on all their products. (Canada.ca)

In an effort to get ahead of marijuana legalization in Canada last October, earlier in 2018 the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) warned pregnant and breastfeeding women that legal pot doesn’t mean safe pot.

The society says THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, crosses the placenta into fetal tissue and can also accumulate in breast milk — whether from vaping, smoking, or eating.

Potential effects, according to the SOGC include:

  • Pre-term labour.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Lower IQ scores.
  • Impulsivity and hyperactivity in childhood.

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Family Matters: Why a 27-year-old Canadian woman chose to be single and pregnant

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Instead of waiting for the perfect partner, 27-year-old Alyssa Garrison, known as randomactsofpastel, began shopping for the perfect sperm donor.

“I’ve wanted to be a mom for a long long time and it’s kind of became this all-consuming thought that I couldn’t put out of my head,” Garrison said to Global News.

“Every day I was waking up thinking about it, all day until I went to sleep.”

The Toronto woman gave herself a deadline. Shortly after she turned 27, she stopped taking birth control and spoke to her doctor about becoming pregnant.

“It kind of clicked one day, I think I wanted this baby more than I wanted the relationship.”

“So why am I trying to make all these random guys fit into this life that I want instead of just having the life and finding someone that fits it later.”

READ MORE: New Canadian pregnancy guideline shows exercise cuts odds of major complications by 40%

She ended up using sperm from someone she knows. The donor signed a contract, giving up all parental rights, and agreed on total anonymity.

Garrison self-inseminated at home and is now six months’ pregnant and due in February.

“I’m feeling ready and excited. I keep waiting for the fear to creep in but so far not much.”

Taking control of pregnancy

Garrison hopes to give birth at home with her midwife, but she wants her family from Vancouver to also be there.

“It was a big fear of mine that I would be alone for the birth,” she said.

She decided to hire a doula to provide support during the delivery in case her family is unable to make it in time. Garrison hired Rhiannon Langford, founder of Birth Boss Maternity Care, in Toronto.

READ MORE: When should parents be worried about head bumps and bruises in kids?

“Alyssa is definitely a unique client, but in doula work, I’m starting to see that every family is super unique,” Langford said. “When someone is by themself, I offer a hands-on approach. In a birth, I’m the person holding their hands and offering those comfort measures.”

Langford said she believes hiring a doula is becoming trendier in big Canadian cities.

“I think in 2018, we’re seeing female empowerment taking this national stage and being a really big part of the global conversation,” Langford said.


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