Baking with a bun in the oven? CU Anschutz researchers explore the effects of cannabis-use while pregnant
"I am seeing more and more self-reported marijuana use in the clinic"
As cannabis legalization spreads from state to state, more women are experimenting with cannabis use while pregnant. It makes sense: cannabis can help treat nausea, morning sickness and anxiety — and, when you’re encouraged against drinking alcohol, getting a little stony-bologna can really take the edge off.
However, no one really knows what the effects of prenatal cannabis-use are. Doctors recommend against it, and the internet is full of anecdotal accounts of cannabis use causing low birth weight and other birth-concerns. But there simply isn’t much research to support any of that — not yet, at least.
Researchers at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus are hoping to change that, though. Tori Metz, an MD and assistant professor at CU Anschutz is determined to help shine a light on this insofar unresearched area.
"If you look at the literature now, you find very mixed results," Metz said in a press release. "About half of the studies say there is an association between marijuana use and adverse outcomes; about half say there is no association."
Which is to say there’s a lot of unanswered questions. And as the legalization of marijuana continues across the US, one state at a time, medical researchers are going to need avenues of answering them.
"I am seeing more and more self-reported marijuana use in the clinic," Metz said. "I don't know if this is a reflection of women using more marijuana or of the women being more willing to tell us about their use."
The goal behind Metz’ latest study is to flesh that pattern out. It aims to develop a better way of testing pregnant mothers for cannabis use, so that in the future, doctors will be able to more-easily draw conclusions about how cannabis affects children in the womb.
Here’s how it works: pregnant women who choose to participate in Metz’ study will be given a specific survey about cannabis-use, and upon delivery they’ll provide a sample of umbilical cord tissue, which will be tested in a lab and compared to the mothers’ survey answers. The idea is to provide future researchers with an honest and accurate tool for collecting data on pregnancy, birth and cannabis-use.
"These are the obstetric issues we face every day and we don't understand the impact of marijuana use on these outcomes," Metz said. "I want to change that."
Her study won’t definitively answer the question of: is cannabis okay to use during pregnancy? But it will provide medical researchers with the tools to accurately gather data so that eventually we will have a definitive answer that question.
And whether it’s a Yes or No, simply knowing, will undoubtedly change lives.