Vomiting and nausea are common symptoms that women endure through pregnancy. For some women, these symptoms are chronic, for others, they are even worse. Hyperemesis gravidarum is an extremely rare condition that causes such intense vomiting and nausea that hospitalization is often unavoidable. The relentless throwing up endangers both the mother and baby’s health, with the latter missing out on key nutrients for healthy development. Some pregnant women and young mothers are giving cannabis a try, whatever its supposed risks, to put a stop to the vomiting.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is a very rare vomiting condition
An op-ed was published by National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director, Dr Nora Valkow, in 2017 to warn pregnant women about taking marijuana to combat vomiting and nausea. In the article, Valkow poured scorn over online blogs which support – and even those that have speculated about – using cannabis to treat pregnancy-related ailments.
Valkow even makes specific reference to hyperemesis gravidarum, proof of how widespread cannabis treatment has become for the condition.
There’s not much science about using cannabis during pregnancy – it is, understandably, difficult to expect pregnant women to put them forward for research, never mind cannabis research. However, those who have incorporated the herb into their medication are thought to be seeking the anti-emetic properties of the plant. Cannabis use seems most prevalent in the early stages of pregnancy, which is when drugs can potentially be at their most harmful. Therefore, research on the safety of cannabis is necessary.
However, the caution thrown by the NIDA seems of little concern to the mothers who enjoyed relief from their nausea by using cannabis products during pregnancy. Many have opted to go against the advice of their doctors, even for hyperemesis gravidarum.
Around one in 50 women are affected by the unusual morning sickness condition. In addition to nausea and vomiting, hyperemesis gravidarum can also cause electrolyte imbalance and weight loss. Hospitalized patients often require intravenous nutrition due to the lack of nutrients in their system from throwing up.
A pregnant woman interviewed by Circa, whose name was changed to Jessica, gave an intriguing insight into how marijuana had helped control her hyperemesis gravidarum. Jessica said that throwing up between 10 to 15 times daily was common before medicating with cannabis. She explained that she was regularly hospitalized and needed IVs.
Interestingly, Jessica didn’t find out about the possible benefits of marijuana online, but through her doctor in her home state of California, a state which has just legalized cannabis and has a progressive attitude towards medicinal use of the herb for more than 20 years. Jessica’s doctor suggested medical marijuana, since no other treatments to manage vomiting had worked in any of her three pregnancies.
Jessica admitted that she was rather surprised by her doctor recommending cannabis, especially when pregnant, but since all other options had failed, she was willing to experiment.
Cannabis revolution among pregnant women
Circa’s research into pregnant women using cannabis brought them to a Facebook group with almost 10,000 women who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. The group does not explicitly advocate the use of medical marijuana, however cannabis is a common talking point on the group, with many reporting their experiences with it.
One woman found the symptoms so painful that she had even thought about abortion, before deciding to try medical cannabis, according to Circa.
Some women have been worried about taking cannabis while pregnant, worried of a backlash. This was the case for a schoolteacher and mother on the group who was concerned the authorities would take her child away if they found out about her marijuana use.
Using cannabis is a dangerous decision for mothers-to-be, particularly in states that haven’t embraced cannabis. Taking the herb, for any reason, during pregnancy is enough to attract the interest of child protection services.
Indeed, in the deep red state of Wyoming, House lawmakers have brought in a bill that could mean pregnant mothers would face criminal charges for drug consumption. A maximum 10 years imprisonment can be dished out if a fetus dies in a mother who has used drugs while pregnant.
The risks of prenatal cannabis consumption are simply not scientifically confirmed yet. In fact, experts are split on the issue. Some young moms feel that marijuana was a huge benefit to them and made pregnancy more bearable with no side effects for them or the baby. Jessica made a fascinating comment to Circa, saying that her children were more advanced than expected – clearly cannabis had no negative impact on them!