For many people weed is more than just a drug. It is a way of life. One glance at popular cannabis subreddits like r/trees will tell you that consuming marijuana is as much about community and finding kindred spirits as it is about the immediate buzz. People use cannabis to relax and take a breather from their daily quests, but also to accentuate and enhance joyful moments in their lives, be they spiritual, sexual, medicinal or otherwise. Folk are simply having a good time with the ganja. That’s just how it is. It makes many people feel good, plump and happy. It is therefore very understandable that you might wish to continue partaking in your favorite nugs while incubating a little carbon copy of yourself in your womb. That is to say, when you are pregnant. But should you do it? Is it safe for the child growing inside of you?—The reality is that while cannabis might mitigate some of the unpleasant side-effects of being pregnant, a growing body of scientific and clinical studies are showing us that it isn’t healthy for the baby. Cannabinoids like THC will cross the placenta into the fetus and interfere with the development of the child. If you are high, then so is your baby. So the real question is who do you prioritize? Your own well-being or the child’s?
The legalization of cannabis is slowly marching forward, as is the growing perception that cannabis is harmless and actually medicinal. This perception is backed up by a centuries long tradition of anecdotal medical applications, along with a growing body of systematic scientific work that keeps discovering new and exciting ways cannabis can be used to help with a number of health problems.—Cannabis can help against pain, helps with nausea, seizures, inflammation, cramps etc.
Cannabis can mitigate pregnancy side-effects for the mother
Wellness is en vogue and smoking weed has become a routine as much as yoga, avocados and pomegranate juice. Athletes are openly coming out as Ents and the stigma is slowly but surely fading away. So it should come as no surprise to learn that cannabis consumption among pregnant women is also on the rise. There are nearly twice as many cannamoms today than there were in 2002 and that makes sense. If you survey pregnant women who use cannabis during their pregnancy it is usually because it helps them cope with uncomfortable symptoms like nausea, helps them deal with their psychological stress of becoming a mom and, well, because they just plain like the experience. So cannabis is giving women relief. But what about the child?
The medicinal properties of cannabis make it a hazard for the child.
I know that this headline is a bold statement, but bear with me and I will try and explain why I am certain that it is a true statement. First, you will need to understand the core principle behind cannabis’ medicinal properties. It can be summarized in one word: “Homeostasis”. Ok, so here is what that means. In biology, homeostasis describes the process by which your cells enter into a state of equilibrium. In other words, a sort of maintenance mode, or stand-by mode.
Cannabis sends cells into stand-by mode.
This is why cannabis has such broad medicinal appeal. If you suffer from chronic pain, then your nerve cells are constantly sending pain signals to the brain. Cannabis can return the nerve cells to homeostasis, meaning it tells the nerve cells to chill out and go back to stand-by. The nerveous system is only one of many places in the bodies you can find cannabinoid receptors. For example, you can find cannabinoid receptors on many parts of the reproductive system as well as many important immune cells. That is why cannabis also acts as an anti-inflammatory. It can tell the immune cells causing the inflammation to stand down and chillax.
Once you understand this core concept it will become immediately obvious why triggering homeostasis might not be such a great idea during childhood development. You see, you can’t simply send the cells of your unborn child into stand-by mode. Those cells have a job to do: “Grow a baby!”
The cells have a blueprint they need to follow in order to build all the organs your child needs for a long and healthy life. The entire process is precisely timed and synchronized. You only have a certain amount of time to build the pancreas or the heart until that stuff needs to come online. If half those cells are taking cannabis infused breaks, well then shit won’t get done in time.
“But, I know plenty of cannamoms and their children all turned out totally normal.”—is something you might be wondering. But the effects of prenatal cannabis exposure are subtle at best. So your child may seem fine. But you can’t tell whether its heart is too small, or whether the neural network of its brain is less dense or you only have half the insulin producing cells you should have. That stuff really only becomes apparent much much later in life. And when your child is an adult and then develops diabetes, will you draw the connection that it may be because you were smoking weed while pregnant? That causality is so far removed it is difficult to track anecdotally. But this is what the majority of scientific studies are telling us. Fetal cannabis exposure leads to subtle developmental defects that increase the risk of complications later in life. Defects scientists recorded were lower birth rates, less dense brain network architecture and diminished IQ, metabolic deficiencies, smaller heart size, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stillbirths and the list is growing.
Moms should be safe to return to regular smoke sessions after breastfeeding has concluded. However, at the very least, the children should stay away from cannabis until after puberty. Puberty is again one of those times where the body is trying to find its own hormonal and biochemical equilibrium. Adding cannabis to the mix unnecessarily complicates matters at that time.
As unpopular as this idea might be among the devoted Ents out there, it is ironically one of the few subjects that even progressives and conservatives agree upon when it comes to legislation. Keeping cannabis out of the hands of children is one of the least contested topics of the bill making its way through the Senate right now.
A question of ethics
So does that mean that if you are the child of a cannamom who exposed you to cannabis in her womb you can’t have a normal life? Of course not!—In fact, you may never know. Humans are highly variable to begin with. You might be slightly chubbier than you could have been. Maybe have a slightly higher chance of developing heart disease or you might be missing a few IQ points. But you may never miss it. So depending on the situation, giving the mother a break during pregnancy may overall lead to a happier outcome.
That being said, it is all still an ethical question. Should you as the mother put your needs over the child’s? Ultimately, that is a choice everyone will have to make for themselves. But the risks are real, they are measurable and will have some impact on the child’s life.
Lastly, I will leave you with this fun song by Lubalin (feat. Charlotte Cardin) because that makes total sense in this context. Have a nice day!
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