Effects of marijuana during pregnancy
November 16, 2004 1:19 PM   Subscribe

A close family member is pregnant, and she is using marijuana to ease morning sickness. Well, actually, it's more like all-day sickness, ergo several-times-per-day smoking of small amounts. Meanwhile, I'm feeling the effects of my puritanical streak and freaking out. [mi]
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (76 answers total)
[I just moved this more inside, under my name, but not my post]:

She hadn't smoked for probably a year or so, and only started again after she found out she was pregnant, citing morning sickness. I, too, and I had a hellish pregnancy, and understand how awful morning sickness can be . . . but my puritanical streak says (sorry if this is harsh) that it's idiotic to think that it is okay to smoke your baby out just to keep things cushy for yourself.

I'm worrying about reduced birth weight, childhood leukemia, reduced attention span, high-pitched crying, and all the other things possibly associated with marijuana use during pregnancy. I'm not anti-pot at all; however, while the detriments of smoking pot during pregnancy have been debated ad nauseum, I think most people would agree that there are no tangible benefits--that you're not overclocking your baby's creativity or something.

I am extremely shy and hesitant to step on others' toes. I generally try to mind my own business--I know what a bunch of crap all the well-meaning advice you get feels like during pregnancy--and I keep telling myself I am perhaps overreacting . . . but I also keep worrying about her. This is her first pregnancy, and, while happily received, a surprise one, so she probably doesn't know that she is perhaps setting herself up to regret this decision, to second-guess every behavioral/developmental anomale, to feel lots and lots of unbuffered guilt. In her own justification-of-pot-smoking soliloquies, she points to other marijuana-during-pregnancy moms and kids who 'turned out just fine' (meaning no elbows sticking out of their foreheads). But I see in those same kids subtle differences: a total lack of attention spans, lots of heart murmurs, bad teeth from tooth one's arrival, and so on.

So my question is this: what should I do? Should I talk to her, and, if so, how (and, if not, how to I live through the next seven or so months without going nuts)? Is there another way out of this? I'm very excited about the baby otherwise, but this is a huge buzzkill (so to speak) every time I think about it. :(
posted by mathowie at 1:23 PM on November 16, 2004

Well -- if it were me in your shoes, and I didn't support my friend's decision, I would try to convince her to give up the pot (even if it's just for MY sake, if she isn't convinced of health problems). If she continued, and I still couldn't agree with it, then I would have to remove myself from the friendship, in all honestly.

However, countless studies have also shown that stress on a mother does terrible, terrible things to a baby. So the question is, which is likely to cause more harm? Pot, or a constantly sick mother?
posted by Jairus at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2004

Pregnancy is a time when you have to be pure for the sake of the child. Whatever your feelings about pot are (and I'm an old grump on it, myself... it's a drug that makes you stupid, imho...) this is tantamount to having a highball to relieve morning sickness.

Suggest that maybe this is a time to put nothing but good, nutritious stuff in her body, and pot wouldn't be that.

Should you talk to her about it? Geez! That's a tough one. Can you be honest with her? This is common sense we're talking here, and I think she needs a talking to if she doesn't realize the foolishness of this path...

Most women chew on saltine crackers for morning sickness.
posted by jpburns at 1:31 PM on November 16, 2004

Ah. I guess the [mi] function doesn't really work when you're posting anonymously...

I think that if you've spoken with your friend about this and she repeatedly justifies her potsmoking, you're basically out of luck. I agree with you that smoking pot while pregnant is not a good idea, but there really isn't much you can do to change that for her. If she's really so convinced that it's OK as you say, well, then she's made up her mind. It's not your child after all.

One small consolation might be that if she really is smoking only to ease morning sickness, she will hopefully be stopping sometime around the 3rd/4th month. From what I've read, I believe the most damage from drugs etc to a fetus is caused later in pregnancy - so there is a good chance the effect will be minimal.

It still sucks, though, that a mother is willing to take that risk, and I totally understand your concern. But beyond explaining to her the subtle effects you have observed and describe above, I don't think there is much you can do.
posted by widdershins at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2004

My sister-in-law and a few of her friends smoked pot to reduce morning sickness. It furiated me at the time, and I was enthralled to find the children were all fine. I would love to hear the answers to this question.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:35 PM on November 16, 2004

... another thing you could do is get her the pregnancy manual; "What to Expect When You're Expecting." Maybe if she reads along and feels more, uh... involved in the process, and realizes how the fetus is developing at the different stages, she might change her mind.

I was a BIG worry-wort during my wife's pregnancy... I even quit a pack-and-a-half a day (ciggy) habit because I didn't want to smoke around our baby (nearly 13 years clean...). We focused on what was right for the baby and I believe that our efforts resulted in a bright, well-rounded, and beautiful daughter (that, and some exceptional parenting...).

What's the dad got to say about all this?
posted by jpburns at 1:42 PM on November 16, 2004

While I understand where it comes from, I think the idea that a mother-to-be must be pure of heart and body the entire time she's pregnant is a bit overstated, especially in America. The French (and now the Brits) have never banned alcohol for pregnant women -- in fact red wine is encouraged -- and I would find it hard to say that the entire country is populated by fetal-alcohol-syndrome victims. Much of the "Oh my god, you'll DESTROY YOUR CHILD'S FUTURE!" hype is really just hype -- the medical establishment deciding that erring on the side of caution is good, because who the hell cares about restricting women in the pursuit of healthy babies?
posted by occhiblu at 1:43 PM on November 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

reduced birthweight is the most likely outcome (like with cigarette smoke), and any smoke at all is not good (you're getting chemicals too, etc). I'd tell her to stop, deal with it, and give her tons of other tips for morning sickness. GInger, saltines, sweets, tiny snacks, etc.

It's not like pot for chemo, or AIDS, or another disease.
posted by amberglow at 1:46 PM on November 16, 2004

But I see in those same kids subtle differences: a total lack of attention spans, lots of heart murmurs, bad teeth from tooth one's arrival, and so on.

While I would not support relieving morning sickness in this way, I feel obliged to point out that humans are particularly good at perceiving causes and effects where there are none, especially with regard to health. Unless you run a daycare or something, I doubt you have the sample size , or the knowledge of the rest of the parents and their children's medical history to actual establish that these are effects of marijuana smoking during pregnancy (I mean, bad teeth???).

That said, I imagine this is not something that has been studied at all, along with the effects of marijuana on most things. Those grounds alone seem sufficient to not take the medical risk on for a child who is ~20 years from being able to make real decisions on their own.
posted by advil at 1:49 PM on November 16, 2004

It's restricting women for 9 months, to prevent restrictions on their children -- the future inhabitants of this society -- that could last their whole lifetimes. Erring on the side of caution is entirely warrented.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:50 PM on November 16, 2004

So the question is, which is likely to cause more harm? Pot, or a constantly sick mother?

Pot, by a landslide, I'd assume. Just because people know kids that "turned out OK" doesn't reduce the risk. I'd imagine lots of kids "turned out OK" back when moms-to-be smoked cigs and drank. Would you do that today?

From what I've read, I believe the most damage from drugs etc to a fetus is caused later in pregnancy - so there is a good chance the effect will be minimal.

I believe you've got that backwards. I'd always read/heard that the most critical cell generation occurs in the beginning. The later in the pregnancy, the more that's "fully baked", so to speak.

Plenty of moms are constantly sick for the first trimester. Both my sisters-in-law were sick for pretty much the whole 9 months. They would've sooner stepped in front of bus than smoked pot (slight hyperbole), or put anything in their systems that would have even a remote chance of causing a problem. Perhaps it is all hype as occhiblu notes, but how could erring on the side of caution be a bad thing? You're creating a life. I'd say you owe it to the child to talk to her, but I realize that may be easier said than done.
posted by jalexei at 1:53 PM on November 16, 2004

I guess my point is mostly that what a pregant woman does with her body is not anyone else's business but hers and the father's. State your concerns, and then back off and let her make her own choices. Raw vegetables can be harmful, fish can be harmful, aerosal spray can be harmful -- the world is full of chemicals, germs, viruses, etc., all of which are bad for all human beings, gestating or not. When we start policing women's bodies in service of their reproductive function, my hackles get up.
posted by occhiblu at 2:00 PM on November 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

Mothering magazine had an article about this last summer. you should really seek out the print edition as it had most the beautiful pictures of the author's normal healthly-looking children.
posted by danOstuporStar at 2:05 PM on November 16, 2004

If the pregnant lady is not under the care of a doctor or mid-wife, please encourage her to go see one right away. They can provide her with other nausea fighting options where the effects are known. They can also work with her to identify behaviors which may reduce the nausea in addition to potentially giving her prescriptions.

Regarding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: No, it's not caused by the occassional glass of red wine. My ob/gyn said that even a glass a day may not cause FAS. The problem is that no one knows just how much does cause FAS. Along those lines, would the occassional puff be a problem?? I have no idea. However, is "several times a day" above the limit for good baby health?? It's a questions the mother-to-be should seriously consider.

Sure, the puking sucks. However, it's temporary.
posted by onhazier at 2:18 PM on November 16, 2004

What's the dad got to say about all this?

that's the key question.
extereme hyperemesis is indeed a nightmare. but pot is a bit extreme solution, too. she's placing a big bet on her baby's future. good luck (to the baby)

btw, if the child is born with any kind of serious health problems, she'll never have a definite proof of the pot's responsibilty. but still, most people would blame themselves -- and their reckless pot use -- forever.
and rightly so.
posted by matteo at 2:18 PM on November 16, 2004

and keep in my mind that -- even if I'm not a user, I hate and am made physically ill by smoke of all kinds -- I'm ideologically in favor of legalizing pot
but use during pregnancy sounds very fucked up to me
posted by matteo at 2:22 PM on November 16, 2004

Call DCFS.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:34 PM on November 16, 2004

Has she never heard of phenergan? There are many treatments for Hyperemesis (learned a new word today). See this link.
posted by internal at 2:36 PM on November 16, 2004

I second the comment upthread...if anything at all turns out wrong with this pregnancy, guess what the assumption of blame is gonna be.

I did my share of potsmoking years ago. I definitely don't think that it is a good idea during pregnancy. And I do NOT understand the mindset of a woman who would think it WAS.
posted by konolia at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2004

"High-pitched crying?" I'm perfectly willing to believe that the smoke or the THC or the adulterants in pot smoke has a negative impact on fetuses in utero, but that "high-pitched crying" thing sounds suspect to me (how do you measure it? How do you know what pitch the child would have cried at if its mother hadn't smoked pot?)

Okay, back on the topic. All you can do is say to the family member, "I'm really concerned about this, and I want you to spend an hour with me going over the results of some studies I've found that demonstrate possible links between marijuana smoking during pregnancy and negative birth outcomes. I want you to make an informed decision about what you're doing and what the possible consequences of your actions are. I also want you to know that, if you decide to follow some other plan for combatting pregnancy-related nausea, I will support you in it fully and do whatever it takes to make it work for you--driving you to acupuncture appointments, buying you QueasyPops, whatever it is--because I care that much about you and the child you're going to be having."

After that, it's her choice.

My mother gave up drinking and smoking whilst pregnant with me (in the mid 60s, mind you, before everyone was all over that stuff!). The depth of this sacrifice is perhaps apparent in the photo of her breastfeeding a week-old me while smoking a Pall Mall unfiltered, with a big old martini on the nightstand.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:53 PM on November 16, 2004

Almost all those drugs in the link from internal have no information regarding possible complications, either:

"Category B
Animal reproduction studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women."

"Category C
Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks."

So if you're clutching your pearls in shock that a pregnant woman is taking drugs with unknown effects, why would you counsel... more drugs with unknown effects?
posted by occhiblu at 2:55 PM on November 16, 2004 [2 favorites]

I've done some research on this subject and have found pretty much no proof that smoking pot during pregnancy results in any untoward effects on the baby. But still, it is safer to err on the side of caution.

You're right in that she can't point to other kids and moms who puffed during the pregnancy. But then again, there are plenty of people who did absolutely nothing to endanger their children and the children are born with all manner of defect.

Pregnancy is a crapshoot and it does make sense to try and stack the deck (or dice if I'm sticking with the crapshoot metaphor) in your favor as much as possible.

What are her alternatives for dealing with the morning sickness, which can be pretty damned awful after having watched my wife go through it? If its pills then maybe the po isn't such a bad thing.

I'm not saying its a great idea but there are parents out there who do far, far worse to their developing babies and they still turn out fine.

I guess I'm saying, I understand her perspective and I understand yours but I can't say which one is righter than the other. Would you risk permanently damaging the relationship by broaching the subject? Is there someone she would listen to?

Sidhedevil, kudos to your mom for abstaining while pregnant with you, mega jeers for puffing away and drinking while breastfeeding you.
posted by fenriq at 3:25 PM on November 16, 2004

I'm with crash on this one. If you can't talk her out of this, get authorities.. I don't even see this as a grey area. it's just fucking stupid.
posted by GeekAnimator at 3:27 PM on November 16, 2004

err.. get authorities involved
posted by GeekAnimator at 3:28 PM on November 16, 2004

I suspect that it's not just about nausea, but that it's also a comfort measure. Pregnancy is a rollercoaster and sometimes any comfort, no matter how questionable, is welcome. You should only talk to her about this if you are willing and able to help figure out other comfort measures. For me it was gum chewing and lots of lemonade to cleanse my palate (I had ptyalism, which is just nasty). Her body is being hijacked, she is coping, even if it's in a way that you and I may not agree with.

occhiblu is right about "mommy's body staying pure" being a pile of horseshit. Americans have difficulty with the concept of moderation. The occasional glass of wine, a bit of caffeine, and a sweet thing every now and then can be good for mom, and happy moms make healthier babies.

on preview: sidehedevil, fenriq, someone loaned me a breastfeeding how-to manual from the '80s that recommended settling down with a glass of beer during the first few weeks. To "help you loosen up" and relax.
posted by whatnot at 3:29 PM on November 16, 2004

Conclusions. The absence of any differences between the exposed on nonexposed groups in the early neonatal period suggest that the better scores of exposed neonates at 1 month are traceable to the cultural positioning and social and economic characteristics of mothers using marijuana that select for the use of marijuana but also promote neonatal development.

This study Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica:
An Ethnographic Study

I believe it was posted in the blue, but even cocaine doesn't create crack babies like many thought it would. I doubt the THC would pass through the placenta, and even if it did would have any ill effects on the kid. I'm not an OBGYN so take that worth a grain of salt.

Most articles I've read in women's magazines really spin the marijuana issue, with "yeah it's not bad, but you know pot's bad so it can't be good -- and mother's who abuse pot must be abusing other drugs, do don't use pot".
posted by geoff. at 3:29 PM on November 16, 2004

Also keep in mind that in animal studies, they often use large doses, intravenously. I would look at the actual study to see how it's slanted before taking it with a grain of salt.

That said, I'd personally err on the side of caution -- yet I wouldn't worry either way.
posted by geoff. at 3:31 PM on November 16, 2004

I have nothing to add to the debate on the safety here. I'm going to assume that your fears are real and well founded (and if it were my daughter/sister/cousin I would be as concerned as you). However, it seems like most of your question was around how to talk to your relative.

I think the best you can do is talk to her once; tell her how concerned you are; and try and frame it so it's about your concern for her (matteo and konolia are right and you can add me in too) at least as much as the baby. She's obviously already worried, or you wouldn't get the defensive soliloquy, as you put it. It's even possible she was hoping you would say something.

If you find it too hard to tell her to stop, tell her to talk to whoever's providing maternity care for her. If there's noone providing care, that is actually a more serious problem that needs dealing with first.

Are there older female relatives who can be brought to bear here? Because if you're finding this too tough, here's where a mother/aunt/grandmother comes in.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:34 PM on November 16, 2004

I'm with crash on this one. If you can't talk her out of this, get authorities.. I don't even see this as a grey area. it's just fucking stupid.

No, your idea is fucking stupid. Pot may cause some minor issues, and it may not; having a kid put in a foster home, or a kid whose mother is incarcerated, will definitely fuck it (the kid) up.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 3:37 PM on November 16, 2004 [2 favorites]

In defense of my mom--hey, it was 1964, and nobody knew any better! I know lactation counselors who currently recommend small amounts of wine and beer (nitrite-free, of course) to breastfeeding mothers. I'm not sure that Mom would pass their scrutiny, though.

As for the rest of the stuff--if anonymous calls Child Protective Services on her family member, she (anonymous) will regret that decision for the rest of her life.

Not only that, it would be immoral (imho) to turn one's family member in for doing something that one does not know is bad for their unborn child. And the fact is, anonymous does not know that this is bad for an unborn child--the studies are simply not conclusive.

Before you even think about calling CPS, anonymous, please exhaust several other options, including a family intervention.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:38 PM on November 16, 2004

My slightly educated guess would be that the main danger here would be the smoke itself, not the cannabinoids.

If she *must* use marijuana, she should use a vaporizer.

Downgrading the potency or dosage would also be a really good idea, and this is easier to accomplish with a vaporizer, as smaller amounts than what is required for burning can be used.

I find myself mostly agreeing with occhiblu. Many/most anti-nausea drugs are powerful psychoactives with high toxicity levels and a very broad range of detrimental side effects, and they aren't meant for daily to weekly use over a long period of time.

On preview: Get the authorities involved? The hell? That's going to keep mom happy and healthy and help the baby? How short-sighted are you? What, is that going to solve the morning sickness and keep her stress-free? Yeah, send her to jail so she can miscarriage. Brilliant. How helpful. How neighborly. How thoughtful. Sweet Jesus on a flaming pogo-stick of woe.
posted by loquacious at 3:41 PM on November 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

I stand by my recommendation. I see the choice to put that shit in your body while pregnant as evidence that the child will be in further danger from your 'parenting' skills later in life.
posted by GeekAnimator at 3:47 PM on November 16, 2004

Vaporizers. From the cheap and simple to the complex and expensive.

Forum threads about pregnancy and pot, with some authoratative references (and some dumbasses):




If the pregnant woman lives in the USA, she needs to consider that there is a risk of being caught via bloodtests of herself or the infant. The results would be horrible, what with the irrational hysteria that country holds regarding marijuana.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2004

GeekAnimator: What if they choose to take prescription drugs that were thoroughly proven to be even more harmful? Would you still recommend calling CPS? What about if the mother spent too much time on the freeway, stuck in traffic, and suffered from long-term low-level carbon monoxide poisoning?

What if calling CPS caused enough stress that it caused her to miscarriage? Broke up the family? Ripped the child from her mother at birth to be placed in a stranger's home?

The state always knows best, right?

Still want to throw out the baby with the bath water? Still standing? You better not be.
posted by loquacious at 3:53 PM on November 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

Just don't throw the baby out with the bongwater.

Sorry. My bad. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 4:02 PM on November 16, 2004

If the mother will not discontinue cannabis use, perhaps have her use cleaner methods of getting the THC into her system? Such as the vaporizers suggested (I'm not even sure what they are), water bongs, or perhaps even making pot brownies or cookies?

I'd be more concerned about the crap that's in the smoke than the THC itself. If the pot is indeed just a little amount.
posted by eurasian at 4:03 PM on November 16, 2004

VAPORIZER. Buy her a marijuana vaporizer.

It is a device which heats marijuana to a relatively low temperature without burning it. The result is that the active ingredient, THC, vaporizes without burning the plant matter in which it resides.

Typically vaporized pot will have a very fruity, "green" fragrance (and flavor!), and will appear as a whitish cloud similar to standard ganja smoke. However, because charred plant matter is not being inhaled, the health risk is minimized to the user.

You can find them from $50+ online.
posted by plexiwatt at 4:09 PM on November 16, 2004

excellent idea--get her a vaporizer.

Do recommend her trying all the other remedies tho.
posted by amberglow at 4:16 PM on November 16, 2004

I'm with occhiblu. Unless you feel that she is not mentally capable of weighing up the risks and making her own decision, I don't think there's much you can do. Personally, I agree, I do think it's a dreadful thing for her to be doing. But if she is of sound mind, then presumably she cares about the child as much as you do. I find the idea that suddenly her body is everybody else's concern to be more than a little scary.
posted by different at 4:18 PM on November 16, 2004

remind her that the medical establishment will fall all over themselves offering her any number of drugs once she goes into labor.

I can't believe some of the stuff I'm reading in this thread. The child is probably in more danger from the mercury levels in the fish mom's eating to boost her omega 3's. Or maybe all of the goddamned smog mom might be breathing will cause a few problems. No, wait, maybe she sits in an office, in front of a computer, breathing recirculated, germ-laden air. Pot is a drop in the bucket on the health scale. The greater danger is that she is doing something illegal and jail is really bad for you.
posted by whatnot at 4:39 PM on November 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

IshmaelGraves, my statement may have been somewhat hyperbolic, but it was so for a reason. The submitter of the question is concerned for the as-yet-unborn child because:

A) The submitter believes there is a health risk involved,


B) the submitter believes there is a legal risk involved.

If the concern is A), submitter could discuss it with the family member and be told to mind her own business, or, if it's B) discuss it with the family member and be told to mind her own business.

Clearly minding her own business isn't an option or the question wouldn't be on AskMe. Therefore, the only course of action is to get someone else involved, someone with some sort of legal authority over the mother-to-be.

Hence my answer.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:41 PM on November 16, 2004

Do not purchase a BC Vapourizer style of vapourizer. They are completely useless.

The recommended vapourizers are convection-style, blowing air heated by a ceramic (not coil) heating disc. The Volcano gets good reviews.

Personally, I think cheap-and-simple "testtubes" or "lightbulbs" are the way to go, using a handheld microtorch and taking great care to brown the bud, not burn it.

She'll also find that it takes 1/3rd to 1/8th as much weed to get relief. Smoking a joint ends up burning about 80% of the THC, which is really quite pointless. Vaporizing flips that number: you actually get to inhale about 80% active THC, so you need much much less weed.

And at actual vaporization temperatures (~400F IIRC) there is no plant matter being burned, ergo no tar or other shit. Basically leaves you inhaling water vapour, the volatile plant oils, and THC.

I guess I might as well make a pitch for any and all folk interested in marijuana to take a gander at Overgrow.com, which is filled with very informative, factual, and non-hysterical discussion on the use of marijuana. If you use the search engine wisely you can find plenty of quality research referenced in discussions of health benefits, health consequences, medicinal use, traditional use, and so on.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:48 PM on November 16, 2004

sidhedevil, sorry, I didn't mean to attack your mom, I could show you movies of my sister as a kid and sitting among four adults, all of them happily puffing away. The image struck a chord with me and I do apologize if I stepped across a line.

As for calling CPS, I don't think that's a workable solution. Not only is CPS way overloaded and understaffed, you introduce authority to the equation and that's a step that's just about impossible to take back.

And if they saw fit to remove the baby after birth then I would not want to be anywhere near your shoes.

Reason with her but bear in mind that she could be doing far, far worse things to her baby. She's not doing the best she can but she's aways up from the incomprehensible danger zone.
posted by fenriq at 4:50 PM on November 16, 2004


What a wealth of misinformation a lot of you have based your opinions on.

Please make the effort to locate reliable scientific studies on the effects of THC on the fetus.

On the whole, you'll find that the results are inconclusive: to wit, there are a few studies that show actual benefits, a lot of studies that show no effect, and a few studies that show possible harm (though none that I can find show that that harm is from THC itself and not from the inhalation of smoke).

A meta-study of the studies would, I am damn sure, indicate that there is no harm caused by the use of eaten or vaporized THC, and less harm from occassional smoking than from the regular smoking of the nicotine-addicted. Let alone the harm caused by pigging-out on the chemical swill that composes modern ice cream.

In short, discard everything you "know" about marijuana: you are likely informed by government hyperbole, media lies, and silly rumours. When you get right down to hardcore scientific research on the drug, it turns out that it's "mostly harmless."

A lot more harmless than so much of what we do accept: alcohol, caffiene, cheeze doodles, agribusiness beef, and so on.

The hysteria does not match the actual facts.

If she's craving ice cream, it's damn unlikely to be calcium she's craving: it's fat and sugar. How much calcium do you really think is in ice cream, anyway? Not as much as a single freakin' Tums, and what pregnant woman craves Tums? Sheesh.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:14 PM on November 16, 2004

Not as much as a single freakin' Tums, and what pregnant woman craves Tums?

My mom did when she was pregnant with my youngest sister. She used to send me to the store to by boxes of rolls of them. No joke.
posted by jonmc at 5:16 PM on November 16, 2004

Dude, I only quoted the article about cravings to lighten up my post.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:20 PM on November 16, 2004

Dude, I wasn't harshing on you, I was harshing on that article's author! :-)

Jon, is your sister, ah, "big-boned"? Unbreakable? Strong teeth? Hard-headed? Boxes' worth of Tums must have had some sort of consequence! opps. there I go making uninformed assumptions about calcium versus fetal development...

I'm tempted to post an AskMe: "What was the strangest craving you had when pregnant?"
posted by five fresh fish at 5:35 PM on November 16, 2004

speaking of that: pica-- What are typical pica cravings during pregnancy?

The most common substances craved during pregnancy are dirt, clay, and laundry starch. Other pica cravings include: burnt matches, stones, charcoal, mothballs, ice, cornstarch, toothpaste, soap, sand, plaster, coffee grounds, baking soda, and cigarette ashes.

posted by amberglow at 6:37 PM on November 16, 2004

A few words of caution: I was born with minor circulatory problems -- still haunting me three decades later -- that my mother attributes to her dope smoking during pregnancy.
posted by majick at 6:37 PM on November 16, 2004

Since you say yourself that she's smoking *small* amounts for a specific purpose, I'd say mind your own business. The placenta is a remarkable barrier, and most OB/GYNs will quietly suggest and/or permit nearly anything in moderation while you're pregnant if it's medically necessary. I didn't stop taking my migraine medications on the advice of my doctor (though my doses were lowered for the duration.)

And on the topic of morning sickness, cravings and what it all means... many pregnant women come down with pica- cravings for soap, dirt, chalk, steel wool, coffee grounds, cigarette butts, and many, many other non-food items. Cravings and nausea may have once had an evolutionary purpose, but I seriously doubt they do now. The only thing that made me sick when I was pregnant was cherry cheesecake. The only thing I craved while I was pregnant? Cherry cheesecake.
posted by headspace at 6:40 PM on November 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

Oooh, amberglow, scary mind-meld with the pica info a mere three minutes apart...
posted by headspace at 6:41 PM on November 16, 2004

headspace : >

Pica actually can be dangerous tho--as many things ingested (or smoked) during pregnancy can be. And the last thing a pregnant women needs is her stomach pumped. If this woman is really just only taking a few hits a day, the most that will probably happen is a smaller baby than it otherwise would be. The worst things that can happen are unknown (and that's not good), especially if she's in her first trimester.
posted by amberglow at 7:19 PM on November 16, 2004

Lotta posters here are minimizing the awfulness of NVP (nausea/vomiting of pregnancy). It really sucks, and it can progress to hyperemesis gravidarum, which threatens the lives of mom and baby.

By the time the second trimester rolls around there's not much organ development left to do, so it's kind of tough to cause major malformations. I think if the ginger ale wasn't working and my wife wanted a toke or two to avoid puking all the time, I might turn a blind eye, rather than giving her all that other crap medicine that doesn't work anyway.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:34 PM on November 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

I stand by my recommendation. I see the choice to put that shit in your body while pregnant as evidence that the child will be in further danger from your 'parenting' skills later in life.

Just want to add to the side pointing out the american hysteria toward purity while pregnant. I don't even think there's much evidence for alcohol being dangerous... Dan Savage wrote a book about adopting a kid whose birth mom drank pretty continuously over the pregnancy. I understand the desire to do everything possible to start the kid out on the right foot (and personally it seems easy to cut out drinking & smoking, and I've never liked pot, so I'd be clean), but people have done all sorts of things during pregnancy for hundreds of years, and it doesn't seem to have had an enormous impact.

It doesn't seem insane to me to consider the experience of the mother as a factor in making a decision - it's easy for you to say 9 months of nausea is nothing, but then, I can say, a kid with a short attention span is nothing. The former sounds hellish; the latter sounds pretty normal.

I'm sure my mom smoked pot while she was pregnant with me - she had a hippie attitude toward it, as basically having no harmful qualities at all - and I turned out alright. It's easy to decide that any defects a kid might have are due to the actions of the woman during pregnancy, but you know, human beings aren't perfect, and some people just have short attention spans or bad teeth or whatever, and you can't blame that on pot.

Anyway. As to your question, talk to her about it, suggest harm reduction options if she is not interested in quitting altogether, and if that doesn't work, let her be... it is her choice, after all.
posted by mdn at 7:52 PM on November 16, 2004

Sure, the puking sucks. However, it's temporary.

This isn't always true. Hyperemesis is no joke and if she has it, she needs treatment. Pregnancy nausea isn't always benign. She should be going to her doctor regularly for prenatal care and this is something that should be brought up and ruled out as a possibility before anything else happens. All-day sickness can be a bad sign. Show her the link and tell her you love her and want her and her baby to be okay. If it's not hyperemesis, it's a good springboard into a general discussion about health and the pot issue.

Holy shit. Protective services as a first resort? Before even checking to see if the mother is healthy? Before even having a conversation? Holy shit.

On preview: listen to ikkuyu2, who actually has a medical degree, even if he doesn't have an official shingle up while he's here. Whereas I'm just an amateur incredulous foulmouthed busybody who just has to say holy shit just one more time. Holy shit on a fucking shingle.
posted by melissa may at 8:17 PM on November 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

If this woman is really just only taking a few hits a day, the most that will probably happen is a smaller baby than it otherwise would be.

According to the studies I skimmed, the tendency appears to be a larger (heavier birthweight) baby. It appears that smoking pot helps the development of the fetus.

Go figure.

The placenta is a remarkable barrier...

...but does not block THC at all. Sorry.

Of all the chemicals one could take to fight nausea, THC must be one of the least harmful.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:50 PM on November 16, 2004

call her doctor. leave a message. concise, simple. I guarantee they will get on it. tell them you are a concerned friend.

There are numerous antiemetics available. It's absolutely beyond me how one could even begin to rationalize that this may or may not be harmful to the fetus. No one really knows. You could use the same logic for crack. Most kids born to crack-smoking moms do fine. Would anyone sanction that?

Chances are this sort of selfish rationalization is just getting started. I see these folks in clinic fairly often, usually reeking of smoke and telling me they doubt they'll get their kids immunized.

Good luck Matt.
posted by docpops at 9:10 PM on November 16, 2004

On the subject of pica - during our first, I would sometimes catch my wife hanging out in the bathroom sifting massive quantities of talc through her hands. she looked stoned and enthralled all at once. as soon as baby came, the talc became like some sort of noxious chemical to be rid of.
posted by docpops at 9:14 PM on November 16, 2004

As someone who's in the middle of the first trimester right now and feeling almost constantly nauseous, I'd tell her to suck it up and get hard. But maybe that's my martyrdom complex talking.
posted by tracicle at 9:16 PM on November 16, 2004

Here is a comment from my ex, who's a midwife (in this country, that means a three year+ degree and professional certification. Highlighting mine:

"I had a flick through the metafilter link, it's debatable in that there are two sides, the pro-dope/research is balony/dope-is-good-school and then the other side, the one that says there are health risks...mainly birth stuff-
smaller baby, lethargy leading to decreased incidence of breastfeeding, alterations to parent/child bonding, then withdrawal postnatally (ie jittery,high pitched cry - i saw someone doubt the high pitched cry, but until you
have heard it you don't understand it. It's called the crie du chat and sounds just like a cat crying, it's a really freaky and awful sound to hear ...we use the Finnegan score chart for babies whose mothers use drugs in pregnancy) then you are looking at long term issues esp learning disorders, ADHD/ADD, increased likelihood of drug dependancy as a teenager/adult. I've seen babies born to users of drugs and it's not pretty...oh and marijuana is also an oxytocic...ie increased risk of miscarriage and premature labour! This is actually a really serious side effect, so while this person is trying to eliminate morning sickness she is increasing her chances of miscarriage. I also wonder when I look after women who smoke dope, use P, drink heavily etc...what do they think of their baby? And what kind of parents are they? They are not being very loving towards the developing baby nor being particulary responsible. Would they give their newborn baby a toke on a joint? If not then how is smoking dope when pregnant any different, they are choosing for their baby and choosing that it will be a drug user. I think it's incredibly selfish!"
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:56 PM on November 16, 2004

Good luck Matt.

It's not Matt. He just put the bulk of the post in a [more inside] and explained that it wasn't his post.

Just being clear, here...
posted by jpburns at 4:55 AM on November 17, 2004

As ikkyu2 points out, there are dangers associated with morning sickness. A friend of mine had an awful first 3-4 months of vomiting in her first pregnancy, she had to be admitted to hospital twice with blood in her vomit, which turned out to be from acid damage to her throat. She could barely hold down water, which meant she didn't get proper nutrients and she was totally stressed throughout the period. How healthy is that?
posted by biffa at 5:11 AM on November 17, 2004

When my wife was pregnant, the nausea was incredible, leading to almost constant heartburn, decreased appetite, and loss of energy (even accounting for the pregnancy, which is pretty exhausting on its own). Having nausea at any time is unpleasant. Having nausea during pregnancy is an incredible danger to mother and child.

So yes, she needs to deal with the nausea. But self medicating (with any substance) is never a good idea. There are options available, and she should see her doctor to find out the safest one for her. My wife took Diclectin and it was an instant, complete end to the nausea. That particular drug has been off the market in the US since 1983 (although I can't find any actual studies showing problems), but there are other alternatives available to her.

Talk to her, and let her know there are safer options available. If she's unwilling to go off pot for a safer alternative, then it's not the nausea she's treating.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:52 AM on November 17, 2004


I didn't make this clear in my post, but I was specifically referring to phenergan as a possibility. My wife, and a lot of other women I know have taken it, and it works. The only side effect my wife experienced was being tired, but in the first trimester that is expected anyway.

I included the link to all of the medicines just to show that there are many alternatives to pot. Besides, I would take and recommend any of these medicines that have been thoroughly tested and FDA approved in numerous clinical trials rather than some ditch weed the dealer down the street may have. But maybe I am biased because I have worked for two pharmaceutical-related companies.
posted by internal at 6:41 AM on November 17, 2004

Cri du chat I've heard of, and I wouldn't describe it as "high-pitched crying" but rather a fairly distinctive sign of a significant neurological disorder. It would never have occurred to me in a million years that that was what the original poster was referring to. Also, I can't find any information that suggests that that particular symptom can result from marijuana intake during pregnancy.

I also appreciate joe's_spleen's ex's input--her question "Would you give the baby a toke on a joint?" is extremely to the point. However, her comments about "the effects of children born to mothers on drugs" are less to the point--which "drugs" were the mothers on? Cocaine? Heroin? PCP? Legally prescribed barbiturates? Aspirin? Every drug is different.

As for Ghost in the Machine's point, let me just remind everyone that, in the 1960s, the new "wonder drug" prescribed by physicians in the US and Europe for the treatment of morning sickness was thalidomide.

Now, I do believe that that international tragedy has made pharmaceutical manufactures and national/international regulatory agencies more watchful, but the fact is that the fact that a drug is legally prescribed doesn't necessarily make it safe for consumption by pregnant women. The fact is that unsafe drugs still get through the system--Vioxx is a recent example.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:14 AM on November 17, 2004

I'm with crash on this one. If you can't talk her out of this, get authorities.. I don't even see this as a grey area. it's just fucking stupid.

What the fuck is wrong with you people? How is this anything but a family matter? It's not like she's popping thalidomide or something.

You're going to do a disservice to everyone involved, including yourself, if you start bringing the authorities or her doctor into this, and you'll almost certainly lose her as a friend.
posted by bshort at 7:17 AM on November 17, 2004

Sidhedevil, I agree completely with your point that it's important to be informed, but not every drug is thalidomide. And while it's true that Diclectin (under the name Bendectin) was withdrawn from the US market after a number of lawsuits were launched suggesting birth defects, it's important to note those lawsuits were sparked by an article in The National Enquirer, of all places, no lawsuit against the manufacturer have succeeded, numerous studies have reported no such problems, and there's been a further 20 years of use in Canada with no evidence of problems.

Unsafe drugs do get through the system, but this is one that's been administered for about fifty years in Canada without any suggestion of problems. Thalidomide scared a lot of people off all drugs during pregnancy (and yes, the fewer drugs the better), but that doesn't mean all drugs should be avoided in all cases.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:17 AM on November 17, 2004

internal, got it. But there's still this: "Besides, I would take and recommend any of these medicines that have been thoroughly tested and FDA approved in numerous clinical trials rather than some ditch weed the dealer down the street may have." I very well might, too. But it's not your baby, it's not my baby, and so it's not our job to recommend or prohibit anything.

I personally stay far away from any beef that's been injected with steroids and antibiotics, because I think it does nasty nasty things to my body. But I'm not going to go around tearing suspect filets out of the mouths of pregnant women because "it's bad for their babies." It's not really any of my business.

In my opinion, pro-choice doesn't end when a woman says, "OK, I'm keeping it." And while the questioner, and everyone here, is admirable for trying to help, it's ultimately not our decision. Or, I repeat, really any of our business.
posted by occhiblu at 8:31 AM on November 17, 2004

My aside:

How much you want to bet that the call-the-cops crowd generally consider themselves conservatives while the her-body-her-business crowd leans to the liberal side. So much for the traditional role of the right as champions of small government and individual freedom. Y'all sound like Limbaugh's spend-o-crats with all your authority intervention.

Get it straight:

Her body, her baby, her bong, her biz. If she's your friend, you'll respect her decisions even if you don't agree. Tell her your feelings, then let it go.
posted by squirrel at 9:25 AM on November 17, 2004

(I would actually amend that to "her body, their baby, etc., etc." Again, the father objects, that's a different story.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:37 AM on November 17, 2004

Sorry, that's *if* the father objects...
posted by occhiblu at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2004

There are also dozens of studies of pot and pregnancy and I've skimmed a bunch of them. So far, all the negative outcomes appear to be related to the inhalation of smoke, not ingestion of THC.

I know I'm coming across as a rabid pot-head, but what's really getting my goat here is that a bunch of people I normally consider to be pretty damn smart are putting forward a bunch of near-hysterical misinformation.

It drives me freakin' nuts when outright lies are passed off as truth. It's all the worse when it's coming from people who would never do such a thing if they took the time to find some facts.

The bottom line is that if you'd be comfortable with her indulging in a binge of Cheetos-eating, drinking Coca-Cola, or living in Los Angeles, then you really ought not be very concerned with her ingestion of small doses of THC.

Indeed, the only concern, based on the actual studies that have been performed, would appear to be that she needs to vapourize or eat the drug, not smoke it.

Let's deal with facts, people, not uninformed opinion.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:09 AM on November 17, 2004

Yeah, you're right, occhiblu: their baby. FFFish, you gonna bogart that thing all night?
posted by squirrel at 6:14 PM on November 17, 2004

Bogart it? Here, lemme give you a cola of your own. Enjoy!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:29 PM on November 17, 2004

Looks like someone on Overgrow did a nice job of summarizing a number of studies on marijuana:

Marijuana. There are studies of its effect on the fetus and subsequent growth/performance; the overall message is: "it ain't gonna harm the tadpole."
posted by five fresh fish at 12:03 PM on November 20, 2004

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