Today’s episode addresses the hard questions we get from women about cannabis & pregnancy. We hear from a cannabis doctor and a former maternity nurse, and we share one woman’s story about why she stayed away from weed during her first pregnancy and why she chose to consume with her second. We also address an August 2020 study that details the possible link between women who consume cannabis during pregnancy and higher rates of autism in their children.
Host & co-creator: April Pride
Co-creator: Ellen Lee Scanlon
Producer: Nick Patri
Marketing manager: Madi Fair
April Pride: This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.
Sandra Guynes, The Kush Nurse: It’s hard for me not to get just so upset, because as a nurse who has witnessed birth and been with moms throughout all these pregnancies, I was a maternity nurse, one of the things that I realize is, the medication that they give you in the hospital is not the best medication. Okay? What they give you for nausea. What they give you for epidurals. What they’re giving you for pain. You’re literally are at a risk just taking those medications. But the thing is, those medications have been studied.
April Pride: Welcome back to How to Do the Pot. I’m April Pride. And today we’re talking about pregnancy and cannabis. We’ll check in with a cannabis doctor and a former maternity nurse, Sandra Guynes who you just heard from and share one woman’s story about why she stayed away from weed during her first pregnancy and why she chose to consume with her second. We covered pregnancy postpartum and we’d on episode three of How to Do the Pot with Dr. Melanie Bone. She’s an OB/GYN with over 25 years of experience. Please listen to that episode and give yourself a foundation for this very complicated topic. With cannabis named an essential service, and the more open dialogue about its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, we know pregnant women are looking at weed more seriously than ever. So we also wanted to address a first of its kind research setting that was released after our original episode three aired.
April Pride: This study details, the possible link between women who consume weed during pregnancy and higher rates of autism in their children. In August of 2020 researchers from The Ottawa Hospital and affiliated institutions review data from every birth in Ontario, Canada from 2007 to 2012, which summed up to be more than a half a million women. Of those, 2200 women said they use marijuana during pregnancy without mixing it with tobacco, alcohol or opioids. The study found an association between maternal cannabis use and pregnancy and the incidence of autism spectrum disorder in the offspring. A bit later in this episode, we’ll take a longer look at this study with Dr. Jessica Knox, who you’ve heard lots on the show and I’ll link to this study in the show notes. To shed light on some of the challenges facing women who are considering consuming while pregnant, we talked to Shonitria Anthony, a journalist and the host of Blunt Blowin’ Mama podcast.
Shonitria Anthony, Blunt Blowin’ Mama: And I told my partner like, “I’m pregnant, we’re having a baby.” I just assumed I can’t smoke weed anymore. So I didn’t smoke weed for nine months. I breastfed my daughter for 15 months. I did not smoke weed during that time consume any kind of cannabis. So that was two years of no cannabis consumption after consuming cannabis regularly, most of my life. I think I was not ready. I wasn’t ready for life without cannabis. I wasn’t ready for the changes pregnancy would bring to my body, bring about emotionally hormonally, mentally, just all of the changes. And I didn’t have this thing that I used to take care of myself, which was cannabis. And I did myself a disservice. I often say one of the biggest regrets of my life is not consuming cannabis during that pregnancy because I was miserable.
Shonitria Anthony, Blunt Blowin’ Mama: It was a healthy pregnancy. I had a really great breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. We never struggled with that either. She is, continues to be healthy. She was healthy as a baby as well. I was not well though. I was mentally cuckoo. The hormones were raging and I had no idea why, and I couldn’t control it. And as someone who is a control freak, to no longer have control and not know what’s going to happen next was like my worst fear and I wasn’t handling it well. So towards the end of my breastfeeding with my daughter, I finally weaned her off and I smoked weed and I started smoking it consistently. And my life went back to normal. I felt like myself emotionally, I was adjusting better.
Shonitria Anthony, Blunt Blowin’ Mama: And I made the connection immediately. I was just like, I have been having the worst two years of my life because I have not been consuming cannabis. And it was a huge revelation for me. And once I made that connection, I knew that if I ever got pregnant and decided to have a kid again, that I would need to find a way to continue consuming cannabis so that I could be myself and be well.
Shonitria Anthony, Blunt Blowin’ Mama: If you’re considering medicating with cannabis during your pregnancy, Sandra Guynes, the kush nurse has some advice for finding the best healthcare provider for you.
Sandra Guynes, The Kush Nurse: So I think the biggest thing is I always tell people, you, as a patient, if you’re pregnant or trying to have a baby and you are in a legal state, I would definitely try to find a provider that is comfortable with you using cannabis, if that’s what you want to do. And it’s hard to find those providers because they don’t have like a sign outside their door. But finding other moms that have gone through similar things is helpful and then interviewing your doctor, which sounds terrible but if you haven’t become pregnant yet, that’s the best time to interview those doctors and find out, “Are you comfortable with me using cannabis for XYZ purposes during my pregnancy?” And here’s the second thing. You may not have information about why or how your pregnancy outcomes will be using cannabis. However, if you’re using cannabis for a condition, you’re more likely to find studies, articles and supporting information about your condition to take to your provider.
Sandra Guynes, The Kush Nurse: And that’s always a good place to start because you can say, “I felt like this and with cannabis, I feel like this and my quality of life is better because X, Y, Z,” and now you have your own evidence to bring in. So sometimes it’s not necessarily saying like, “I want you to support my using it during pregnancy,” it’s saying, “I want you to support my condition because I’m a whole person with a baby inside of me that needs to manage these conditions.” And I think that’s really the part of advocating for yourself. It’s not just to say, “Hey, I want to use…” Because sometimes I think the doctors look at that as a personal decision. It is a personal decision, but it’s a medical decision also, it’s your body and your health.
April Pride: Shonitria talks about how she made the decision to consume with her second pregnancy.
Shonitria Anthony, Blunt Blowin’ Mama: So I got pregnant with my son in 2018 and that was my test. It was like, okay, by that point I had started Blunt Blowin’ Mama and everything and I’ve talked to so many women and I made the decision. I told my partner, Jared, I was just like, “Babe, I’m going to smoke weed during this pregnancy, I’m going to consume cannabis.” And he was like, “Okay. I assumed that, you have Blunt Blowin’ Mama.” I was just like, “Okay, I just want to make sure you’re all right with this because this is your child too. I value your opinion.” And it was really hard that first time I consumed cannabis while pregnant, it was my first trimester. And if anybody who has had a kid before, you know that like that first trimester, you get those really horrible cramps because your abdomen and it’s like doing the things your uterus is getting ready for them. Everything’s getting ready to make room for the baby. And your body’s just freaking out doing all these things. And so the cramps were horrible. I had really bad headaches that were horrible. And then I fell into a slump.
Shonitria Anthony, Blunt Blowin’ Mama: People don’t talk about pregnancy depression enough, and I didn’t know it existed, no one ever talks to me about it. I got talked to about postpartum depression, I knew about that and I was ready for that, but I didn’t think a woman could be depressed while pregnant. And so I couldn’t put my finger on it, but out of nowhere in that first trimester, one weekend, I was in bed all weekend. I didn’t get up to shower. I barely ate, I didn’t do anything and that’s not good because at that time my daughter was like three and she was coming in and out of our bedroom like “Mama, are you okay? What’s wrong?” And I couldn’t express why I was feeling so depressed to the point of having suicidal thoughts. And that’s not in my character. I’ve never been in that space mentally or emotionally.
April Pride: Dr. Jessica Knox, a Harvard trained MD and co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics understands the role cannabis can play as one of several options for pregnant women.
Dr. Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: And I think it’s really important to realize women who are using cannabis to manage symptoms, whether it’s pain or anxiety or whatever it may be. There’s actually a lot of symptomology that comes with pregnancy or that is exacerbated by pregnancy and we tend to think it’s okay to prescribe these women various drugs to manage those things, but for me, I think cannabis is actually a much alternative to a lot of the drugs that we do prescribed during pregnancy to manage the various symptoms. And it’s guided moderated use, I think is completely reasonable and appropriate. But when we do see women who use cannabis in moderate ways, they’re using it to manage symptoms throughout pregnancy, they sometimes have medical guidance. We don’t see any scary outcomes. We don’t see that their children are aren’t progressing normally or developing normally. Their children aren’t doing worse in school. We don’t have those scary outcomes.
April Pride: Shonitria realized she was in a scary situation and trusted her instincts that cannabis was right for her.
Shonitria Anthony, Blunt Blowin’ Mama: So I knew something was off and I made the connection that it’s time. It’s time for you to try cannabis to help you get out of this because this can’t be good for your baby. This cannot be good. You thinking about harming yourself while you’re pregnant, that cannot be good. I think cannabis might help and if it makes those thoughts stop, if it makes me feel like myself, then that’s a great outcome and I’ll be able to be here for my family. We hadn’t bought weed in a while since I found out I was pregnant and so there was maybe some joints laying around so I was looking for them it’s in the middle of the night. And I found a joint, an indica joint and I went to my partner who was already in bed and I was like, “Babe, I’m going to go step outside really quickly and smoke this joint. Like you want to join me?” In my way of trying to see if it was still okay with him. And he was just like, “I’m pretty tired. Enjoy.”
Shonitria Anthony, Blunt Blowin’ Mama: And I didn’t smoke the whole joint. I smoked like half of it. What’s that like two, three, four puffs, whatever. And that was it. That was enough for me to realize, wow, what happened? Why were you depressed? What’s going on? And in a matter of a couple of hits from a joint and I was just like, this is magic. This is amazing. This just saved my life. This just brought me back to myself. I went to bed, I slept like a baby and I was myself again. And so from that point on I knew that I needed cannabis in my pregnancy. And so up until my third trimester, I consumed cannabis during my pregnancy with my son. And I enjoyed that pregnancy so much. I enjoyed that pregnancy so much, it was a healthy pregnancy. He was born healthy.
April Pride: So why this topic of pregnancy right now? Well, for February and Valentine’s day, How to Do the Pot is going to take more realistic look at our modern notions of romance. I mean, really who wants a hallmark card when one very on-point meme says it all? There’s so much talk and so many questions from you, our listeners of sex and weed that we’re spending the month diving into our new audio series, The Best Weed for Sex. So before we get you super stoked to get high and get it on, we wanted to remind you of the very real outcomes of such fun, like pregnancy, particularly in these times pandemic pregnancy to show you that we really care. We asked Dr. Jess about the Canadian study on pregnant women.
Dr. Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: When that study came out, it was like, it ripped through the whole medical side of the industry and there was a lot of talk about it. And I feel like everybody I encountered was like, there are so many problems with this study, so many just holes and jumps in logic and in whatever it may be. I’m sure a lot of cannabis clinicians did face some tough questions from patients, almost any category. It’s always a question of safety, Is it safe? Am I going to hurt myself?” And, with pregnancy is, “I’m not going to hurt my baby?” That’s the question, of course. And again, we would love to have a lot more research. Pregnant women are one of the hardest groups to have any research done on, for obvious reasons probably. But what we do have is a lot of ecological or natural research, because there are populations of folks who have and do use cannabis during pregnancy. So we can see how they do and compare it to people who have not used cannabis.
Dr. Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: And frankly, most of the unbiased or the research that seems to be unbiased to me that has compared women who have used cannabis before and during pregnancy to those who have not is reassuring. We don’t see a lot of reasons for concern for women who are using cannabis.
April Pride: Sandra also believes that more research is needed.
Sandra Guynes, The Kush Nurse: We don’t have many studies, but there is a lot of anecdotal information, which is just other people’s feedback about their personal experiences that they’ve shared with doctors, with nurses and those nurses and doctors have written several articles, you can go online and find, that really share that there are risks with everything, with a glass of wine that you had, with anything. But that we know that the potential risks are minimal when we look at thousands and thousands of women who over time have reported, “Hey, my children were born with no issues. My pregnancy was great and my child is X, Y, years old and not having any symptoms.”
April Pride: So what about the medications doctors are no doubt prescribing more to improve the mental health of women pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic? For those who are pregnant during COVID survey shows these women experience rates of moderate to high levels of anxiety, symptoms of depression and overall feelings of stress at rates two to three times higher than pre pandemic. During times of extreme distress, the body releases stress hormones that the fetal brain is quite receptive to, including areas related to learning and memory. If you have any more questions, please listen to episode three of How to Do the Pot with Dr. Melanie Bone, an MD whose patients consumed during pregnancy. She shared her views on harm reduction or assessing total context of a woman’s mental and physical health, including her prescribed medications and risks to her child both before and after birth.
April Pride: An example of risk reward thinking is if you’re pregnant during COVID, which is worse, the potentially negative effects on mother and baby real time and or future physical and or mental health due to stress, anxiety, or depression, or the potentially negative effects on mother and baby’s realtime and or future physical and or mental health due to consuming cannabis. Listen to episode three as Dr. Bone walks women through risk reward thinking. And cannabis in pregnancy, they come with another risk that we need to mention drug testing.
Dr. Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: I think one of the scarier things about using cannabis in pregnancy is still the, I guess, the social milieu around that, because even in States where cannabis is legal, there aren’t necessarily any protections for women who are using cannabis during pregnancy. So when I delivered babies, which was back in my residency days as a family medicine intern, it was very common to do drug testing at the time of delivery. And if a woman tested positive for cannabis, let alone any other drug, but for cannabis, we had to call child protective services. And that is still relatively common. And so for me, again, the scariest part of using cannabis during pregnancy is the social ramifications that can come from it. So it’s really important that women know where their doctor stands, know where the hospital stands. What’s the routine at that hospital when it comes to drug testing and what they do if there’s a positive drug test. So more of that social stuff frankly needs to catch up with the times. But unfortunately right now, we still have to be very careful with that sort of social aspect of it.
April Pride: We hope that sharing this information helps you navigate your choice. And we also know that the decision is anything but easy. For today’s high five, cannabis pregnancy and postpartum. Number one, know the numbers. Use of cannabis by pregnant women has been growing in the United States in recent decades. A 2019 analysis of nearly half a million pregnant women in The National Institute on Drug Abuse found cannabis use more than doubled in the 15 years, between 2002 and 2017. Number two, hard choices. A small study of pregnant women by Washington State University researchers found that women chose to use cannabis to avoid medications they felt were more harmful to their baby, such as anti-nausea pills, anti-psychotic medications and opioids. As with many things in cannabis, more research is needed. There’s little data about CBD combined with low amounts of THC. But anecdotally Dr. Bone says patients seeking medical cannabis purp are high CBD, low THC strains.
April Pride: Number three, breastfeeding. Data shows that on average, 10% of what you take in as cannabinoids will cross into breast milk for comparison, the amount of alcohol that crosses into breast milk is on average five to 6%. Number four, topicals and CBD. Are CBD creams and patches totally different than smoking or vaping? Dr. Bone says not really.
Dr. Melanie Bone, OB/GYN: We often think of the skin as a barrier, but at the same time, the skin is the largest organ in the body and it does absorb a lot. And therefore to say, well, I’m just using a topical because I’m not ingesting it. And it’s not going through my liver as the first go or through my lungs, it should be safe. I think that you can’t make that assumption.
April Pride: Number five, quality. Cannabis purchased at licensed dispensary’s must pass rigorous state defined testing and regulation. CBD available for purchase nationally is not federally regulated. Visit our website, dothepot.com for more info that will help you understand test results, read product labels, and choose what you need. This week strain recommendations, cannabis brands with great products for postpartum women. Quim, weed in pregnancy is controversial, warrior on post-partum sex is not, easy to transition with serums for postpartum sex from this latex condom friendly brand. Quim CBD ships nationwide and THC serums are available in California. Equilibria, new moms don’t have a lot of time to learn How to Do the Pot. Check in by phone or email with your one-on-one dosage specialist at Equilibria, to answer all your CBD questions, use promo code, DOTHEPOT for 15% off your order. And Foria, women may not talk a lot about them yet, but vaginal suppositories help with painful periods or pain for sex.
April Pride: And since its founding, Foria has been a leading champion for environmental sustainability in cannabis, we will talk to Foria’s founder as well as their chief brand officer in next month series The Best Weed for Sex. And for today’s podcast recommendations. I like the new family podcast episode 190, the rebel mama’s get real on new motherhood. The Rebel Mamas, I met them in Toronto and they’re like the anti-mommy blog bloggers and authors of the Rebel Mama’s Handbook for (Cool) Moms. And Ellen likes Unfinished Biz hosted by VMG Partners. Healthy snack company Bitsy’s recently welcomed actor and activist Gabrielle Union as a co-founder and talk about their mission as three moms to offer nutritious kids’ food to all families. And How to Do the Pot, Blunt Blowin’ Mama hosted by Shonitria Anthony episode 57 on medicating with cannabis during pregnancy, and having an understanding doctor with cannabis advocate, MsKindness. And as always, if you like How to Do the Pot, please share it with someone and rate and review us on Apple podcasts. It helps more people find the show.
April Pride: Thank you for listening to How to Do the Pot. Let us know what you think. Find us on Instagram @dothepot, and you can follow me @aprilpride and for lots more information on cannabis and women visit to dothepot.com. Thanks to my co-founder Ellen Scanlon, Madi Fair, our brand manager and our producer, Nick Patri. I’m April pride, and we’ll be back soon with more of How to Do the Pot.
So you must be legal, too. Age 21+ invited to continue.