Midwifery is a career path for those interested in taking a holistic approach to providing medical care for pregnant women. From measuring the baby and estimating how many weeks a mother is along, to coaching women in labor and helping deliver their babies, midwives often pride themselves on their hands-on methods. Although natural treatments are often recommended by midwives, not all naturally occurring plants and substances are a good match for pregnant patients. More specifically, marijuana usage in pregnant patients is a heavily debated topic for midwives. Here is a closer look at how marijuana usage in pregnant patients is dealt with, disputed, and evolving.
Midwifery Licensing, Rules, and Drug Testing Requirements
To work as a midwife in any state in the U.S., you first need to go to school for nursing and become a registered nurse. Next, becoming a certified nurse midwife is necessary for being legally eligible to work as an independent midwife in the United States. Online neonatal nurse practitioner schools like Baylor University make it so you don’t have to wait long to transition into this field. Unfortunately, there are no unified federal guidelines that will enable you to work in all U.S. states, so you have to see what the rules are on a case-by-case basis. Some states allow midwives to use marijuana, and or prescribe marijuana to pregnant patients, but again, the rules vary from state to state. With few exceptions, drug testing is still routine in pregnant women, at least at some stage of their pregnancies, either by insurance companies, hospitals, or their medical practitioners.
Marijuana and Federal Law
In California, not only is it legal to use marijuana for medicinal reasons, it is also legal to use it for recreational purposes. Lots of states have made marijuana legal, decriminalized marijuana usage, and even offer some employment and marijuana usage protections for citizens. On a federal level, marijuana is still illegal. So, even for expectant mothers who use marijuana legally and with the approval of their midwives or doctors, there can be repercussions and dangers. Hospitals could ask local child protective services to intervene, and licensed medical professionals could face disciplinary actions.
Prescribing Marijuana and Cannabis Derivatives to Pregnant Patients
When looking at how midwives deal with patients and marijuana usage, there are two different angles that should be considered first. First, on a practical level, midwives have to analyze how many pregnant women actually use marijuana in the first place. Statistics vary, but generous estimates put it at less than 5%. Marijuana usage in pregnancy generally skews towards younger mothers, with less than an estimated 3% of expectant mothers over the age of 35 considering marijuana usage. In short, midwives will likely have few patients where marijuana usage is at issue. Of those cases, the circumstances will likely be unusual or deemed medically necessary.
Pre-Existing Medical Considerations
In some pregnancies, mothers have pre-existing medical conditions that necessitate the use of medical marijuana. For example, as a result of a terrible car accident, an expectant mother may have been using medical marijuana to treat back pain. Their doctor or midwife may explore reducing their dosage or trying other pain management tools. However, if symptoms don’t subsist or the patient reports new and more pronounced symptoms, continued prescribed marijuana usage may also be recommended. There are certain situations in which pregnant women are medically prescribed marijuana by their midwives, as is allowed in the state of Maryland. Each case will be different, and medical experts have full discretion.
Common Pregnancy Symptoms
A major reason why there is confusion around marijuana in pregnancy and what is and isn’t advised is the fact that nausea is such a major symptom of pregnancy. Also known as morning sickness, nausea symptoms can persist throughout the entire duration of a pregnancy. Marijuana, CBD, and other cannabis derivatives are widely known to alleviate and even cure nausea. However, what a perfectly healthy person takes to treat nausea differs completely to what is advised of pregnant women. Likewise, marijuana can prove helpful for people suffering from anxiety and irritability. Overall, while marijuana may be extremely helpful in general, it is not the first solution that should be thought of or sought out in those who are currently pregnant.
Clinical Studies and Research Data
Of the studies measuring the effects of marijuana usage in pregnant patients, a few solid pieces of data have come out. First, pregnant women who use marijuana are about three times as likely as women who didn’t use marijuana in their pregnancies to deliver babies with low birth weights. These same studies showed that babies of mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy were also more like to be diagnosed with ADHD, experience short term memory loss, and even use different parts of their brains for various types of activities. It can take upward of a decade in order to successfully complete studies of these kinds, so it would be years before any new conclusive data on marijuana usage in pregnancy is released.
The General Consensus
In the majority of healthy pregnancies where the mothers have no pre-existing conditions or other major medical concerns, midwives and doctors alike do not recommend or support the usage of marijuana for any reason. Symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and anxiety can be treated with other natural remedies that are proven to be safe in pregnant women. Yoga, various herbal teas, and even massage have been recommended as alternatives for marijuana. The general consensus is that it is worth it to attempt to manage minor symptoms with alternatives to marijuana rather than assuming that cannabis is the only choice. Midwives have a large number of recommended treatment options for helping women to cope with their pregnancy symptoms and complications, making marijuana a non-factor or last-ditch resort at best.
All in all, midwives and other healthcare experts recommend that pregnant women avoid using marijuana, wherever possible. Yes, there are situations in which marijuana usage in pregnancy is permitted or even prescribed; however, those cases are rare and all but the exception to the rule. Besides the research studies and backing data detailing how exposure to marijuana and THC presents negative side effects on pre-term mothers and their embryos, the best policy in the healthcare industry is always to be safe rather than sorry.