Marijuana is already a controversial topic as it is. People who smoke, consume, or grow marijuana are looked at as criminals or bad people most of the time. Now when you add pregnancy into the mix, it becomes even more problematic. I hear people say women who smoke or ingest marijuana are “absolutely disgusting”, “should not be pregnant”, and “don’t deserve to be mothers”. Although smoking marijuana is legal to some extent in 30 states, the majority only allows consumption for medical purposes. But can it be used by pregnant woman for medical purposes? Many questions come along with the idea of a pregnant woman using marijuana. Will the baby be harmed? Does it affect the baby in any way? These may sound like foolish questions, but the majority doesn’t know the answers. This is why I want to do some research. This question also peaked my interest when I saw that one of my friends would smoke marijuana during her pregnancy. I think it’s important for me to be knowledgeable about this topic because I am both a woman and a marijuana advocate. I hope I can find the answers to my questions so I can educate myself and others around me.
Throughout my research process, I came across many scholarly and peer reviewed journals and articles about the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy. I was seeking positive reviews and benefits rather than negative effects and downsides. First, I gathered all of my thoughts and wrote them down, and then started assessing myself. I began to question every aspect of my single topic question. Then, I asked friends about their general opinion about my topic in order to look at my question from different perspectives. With these new ideas, I began to step away from my ego centric world and shot towards the internet and the Chaffey College Research Database. While browsing the web, I came across a website where pregnant women would act as a support group for one another. They would ask one another varying questions pertaining to their personal experiences with pregnancy. Reading through their conversations sparked even more interest in me when I saw that they were questioning marijuana. These women’s questions soon became mine, and I sought out to find the answers.
This is where I entered the research database. I encountered some frustration when all I would find was articles that talked about the negative effects and why one should not smoke marijuana, rather than some type of groundbreaking discovery that was upholding it. This is where I realized my flaw. Although I found valuable information, I couldn’t fathom it because it wasn’t what I was searching for. Unknowingly, I was searching for evidence that satisfied my unconscious bias. This is where I had to take a step back and yet again push away my individualistic behavior and instead evaluate the material that was handed to me. I had to learn to acknowledge different points of views. This taught me to be open minded in my research. Although I struggled at first, I learned to become a better researcher and critical thinker. Now whenever I research, I will remember to keep an open mind and consider every possibility. I will not shy away facts or opinions that don’t fit my views.
Research can be conducted in many ways. My specific method is to first brainstorm my thoughts so I can understand what I am looking for. Then, I take the major words and use a research database to find sources of information. From there the gates are open to millions of ideas, questions, and opinions that I could have never uncovered before. In an attempt to avoid reading millions of pages of words that are irrelevant to my research, I skim the pages. If I am looking at a scholarly journal, for example, I will read the abstract. The abstract helps me to understand what the entire journal is about. If it does not relate to my topic then I will move on. I explore numerous sources to avoid limiting myself. After exploring, I come back to the most relevant ones and read in depth. During this process, I pull out quotes that will be useful to me in the process of researching my questions and coming to a conclusion.
At the beginning of my research project, I sought out to answer one very broad question. My main concern was whether or not smoking marijuana while pregnant is beneficial and any negative effects. In the midst of my research, more questions arose which led to plenty of new discoveries. I learned about the specific medical disturbances and effects smoking or ingesting marijuana can have on the fetus during the development of the child, the medical use for pregnant women, and more interesting facts.
Barry M. Lester and Melanie Dreher write, “Marijuana use during pregnancy is associated with a variety of adverse outcomes, including prematurity, low birthweight, decreased maternal weight gain, complications of pregnancy, difficult labor, congenital abnormalities, increased stillbirth and perinatal mortality, perinatal problems, and poor Brazelton scale scores” (765). Although marijuana is associated with these medical problems, it cannot be held fully accountable for these problems because “sociodemographic variables such as lower income and education, minority status, and poor prenatal care are interrelated, and assessment of an independent effect has been difficult to demonstrate” (Lester and Dreher 765). This was new information to me because I never knew something such as status was a factor maternal substance use. Another possible risk is neuroblastoma. “Maternal use of marijuana around the time of pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester, is associated with increased risk of neuroblastoma in offspring” (Bluhm, Daniels, Pollock and Olshan 666-67). They continue to write, “we found an increased, but imprecise, risk of acute non-lympho blastic leukemia (ANLL) among children whose mothers used marijuana and other mind-altering substances prior to or during pregnancy” (667). Although these risks are a possibility, there is no evidence that smoking marijuana is the direct cause.
In contrast, Patricia H. Shiono conducts notable studies using “the most reliable methods to assess drug exposure” (159). She writes, “In contrast to the number of excellent studies that provide good estimates of the number of women who use drugs during pregnancy, there are few studies that examine the pregnancy outcomes of these women…. new evidence showed no association between marijuana use during pregnancy and low birth weight or preterm births” (161). Therefore, “the elimination of marijuana use in women would have little or no measurable impact on birth outcomes” (Shiono 161). This finding confirmed my hunch that marijuana does not directly have such negative impacts. Most of the studies claiming so had no evidence that points the finger directly at maternal use of marijuana. Another interesting finding in Shiono’s work says “All studies show that tobacco is clearly the most commonly abused drug during pregnancy. Because of its high rate of use and the large impact it has on the fetus, cigarette smoking is the single largest modifiable cause of low birth weight and infant mortality” (163). This surprised me because prior to reading this, I believed that alcohol was the worst abused substance during pregnancy.
Another discovery from Joyce Abma and Frank Mott concludes that “substantial proportions of younger women use cigarettes, marijuana or alcohol during the pregnancy leading to their first birth. The least educated and the youngest are most likely to smoke both cigarettes and marijuana” (122). Abma and Mott come to the conclusion that “women with some college education were substantially less likely to smoke tobacco or marijuana than were women with 12 years of schooling or less” (119). This was a very alarming finding because I didn’t correlate education with pregnancy before. In addition, I discovered that smoking marijuana is actually linked with causes of teenage pregnancy. Kazuo Yamaguchi and Denise Kandel compose, “Rates of the use of marijuana and other illicit drugs have also greatly increased in parallel with the increasing rates of teenage pregnancy…” (258). This is yet another new idea introduced to me while researching my questions.
Extraneous research I conducted led me to the discovery that some pregnant woman advocate marijuana use. The reason being that it assisted in tackling some of the challenges and hardships of pregnancy. For example, appetite loss and morning sickness where treated with marijuana by many pregnant women, including a close friend of mine. Marijuana is known to aid with appetite stimulation. As Deena Dell and Judith Snyder write, “marijuana has a strong effect on the appetite, sometimes causing the ‘blind munchies’” (634). Marijuana(THC) was even used over the usual anti-emetics in treatment of cancer patients. “Cancer patients had severe nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy. The usual anti-emetics were not effective. When these patients were given oral delta-9-THC, their nausea and vomiting were reduced and they experienced the pleasant side effects of better appetite and elevated mood” (634).
In conclusion, I learned numerous things I did not know or even consider before. Research confirmed my original idea that marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes during pregnancy. I now believe that women should only use marijuana if they are aware of the possible effects it can have on their offspring during the pregnancy. I’m still curious about whether or not there are effects on the offspring after birth. In the process of learning and contributing to this topic, I became a better critical thinker and my mind was opened to various points of views. I hope to learn more about marijuana and pregnancy in the future when there is new research and conclusions.
Bluhm, Elizabeth C., et al. “Maternal Use of Recreational Drugs and Neuroblastoma in Offspring: A Report from the Children’s Oncology Group (United States).” Cancer Causes & Control, vol. 17, no. 5, 2006, pp. 663–669. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/29736508.
This journal article evaluates whether or not maternal use of recreational drugs such as marijuana can influence the risk of neuroblastoma in the offspring. The research method assessed 538 mothers during their pregnancies. I am using this in my report to show the possible risks of marijuana use during pregnancies. This source is reliable because the authors have the following credentials: Department of Epidemiology, Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program, Division of Cancer Prevention, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, University of North Carolina, Center for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Lester, Barry M., and Melanie Dreher. “Effects of Marijuana Use during Pregnancy on Newborn Cry.” Child Development, vol. 60, no. 4, 1989, pp. 765–771. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131016.
This journal article researches whether or not marijuana use during pregnancy affects a newborn baby’s cry. They concluded that maternal marijuana use was involved with higher pitched cries. I pulled information from this source about different factors other than weed that have to do with maternal smoking. Barry M. Lester of Brown University and Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital and Women and Infants’ Hospital. Melanie Dreher of University of Miami.
Yamaguchi, Kazuo, and Denise Kandel. “Drug Use and Other Determinants of Premarital Pregnancy and Its Outcome: A Dynamic Analysis of Competing Life Events.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 49, no. 2, 1987, pp. 257–270. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/352298.
This talked about the causes of premarital pregnancy. It includes several statistics from research. I used the teenage pregnancies topic as an interesting fact. KAZUO YAMAGUCHI University of California, Los Angeles DENISE KANDEL* Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric institute.
Shiono, Patricia H. “Prevalence of Drug-Exposed Infants.” The Future of Children, vol. 6, no. 2, 1996, pp. 159–163. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1602425.
This article speaks of the prevalence of drug exposed infants.
Research was conducted to prove that the possible effects from past research where just that, possible effects. This article helped me prove that marijuana is not actually the direct cause of anything during a pregnancy and after. This journal article is published by Princeton university which makes it credible.
Dell, Deena D., and Judith A. Snyder. “Marijuana: Pro and Con.” The American Journal of Nursing, vol. 77, no. 4, 1977, pp. 630–635. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3461875.
This article covers all the pros and cons of marijuana. It also covers certain characteristics of marijuana. I used this in my essay to show how it’s affects intertwine with pregnancy. The source is the American journal of nursing which is credible.
Abma, Joyce C., and Frank L. Mott. “Substance Use and Prenatal Care During Pregnancy Among Young Women.” Family Planning Perspectives, vol. 23, no. 3, 1991, pp. 117–128. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2135823.
This elaborates on all areas of substance use during pregnancy. It also intertwines it with prenatal care. I used interesting quotes and the conclusion that marijuana is not as negative as it seems in my essay. This source is credible because it is published my guttmacher institute.