Although marijuana is marching toward legalization across the United States, expectant moms may wish to think long and hard still about smoking or ingesting a substance that has become as ubiquitous in some households as aspirin or a bottle of chardonnay. The New York Times has delved into this discussion, even as other news outlets recently have provided parental warnings about hype over apps for baby care and tossing some toxic homeopathic teething remedies.
Pot? Not for expectant moms
Let’s turn first, and not be blue noses about it, to why moms would consider pot while pregnant. Data show that few do (an estimated 4 percent of more than 200,000 women in one 12-year sample — though the number had doubled in recent time). For younger women, the answer may be, just because. They don’t equate it with risk but with recreation. They say they try to be cautious with it, just as they might curtail their alcohol consumption but still have a rare drink. Older and expectant moms may use pot, as many women do, because they find it helps with depression, anxiety, stress, pain, nausea and vomiting.
Solid research on as freighted a topic as marijuana and moms is limited, of course, partly because federal authorities still consider it a dangerous drug and its official classification curbs scientific research on it. Based on a very small sample, researchers recently have suggested grownups abstain from pot smoking near kids, because marijuana’s high-causing substances have been detected in sample youngsters’ blood. The New York Times runs through other available studies and finds studies inconclusive about pot consumption’s potential harm to moms and the unborn.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean pot ingestion is anywhere near safe for expectant moms, nor is anyone endorsing its use by pregnant women. Far from it. The experts pose this harsh question: Why risk it? History tells that it wasn’t that long ago that pregnant women smoked a lot, largely without thinking about how cigarettes harm developing children. They do. Emphatically. Ditto alcohol drinking. Who is unfamiliar at this time with fetal alcohol syndrome?
The developing world stepped up drug testing and safety exponentially after tragedies involving birth defects and a sedative thought to be “safer than aspirin” and commonly taken by expectant moms: thalidomide. I’ve written how women, in particular, suffered great harms when male researchers pushed a drug that “smoothed out” problems arising from their monthly cycle. That medication, DES, has been a horror for the sons and daughters of the women who took it. There are new indications that Lupron, a medication that parents permitted their young daughters to take to prevent early-onset puberty, may be hurting the now-grown women’s health now.
In my practice, I see the major health detriments that dangerous drugs can pose to patients. So many parents, especially expectant moms, sacrifice and take such great pains to protect their children, born and unborn, that it’s just clear that marijuana, though it may be legal in many more spots, isn’t smart for pregnant moms to partake in.
Avoid the hype on baby apps, toss the homeopathic teething nostrum
Savvy parents also may wish to shun the hype surrounding some apps, which, paired with “wearable” devices, purport to provide information on infants’ breathing, pulse rate, and oxygen levels in the blood. They’re also supposed to sound alarms when the babies are in distress. Researchers say, for now, these high-tech tools aren’t necessary, they’re unduly alarming to parents, and they simply aim to exploit moms’ and dads’ early anxiety about serious conditions like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Studies show there already are effective ways to help babies sleep safely, without the added expense of gee-whiz gadgetry.
Finally, if any parents have succumbed to the pseudoscience of homeopathy, federal regulators have a red-flag warning: Toss out any supplies you may have of kids’ homeopathic teething nostrums that were sold by the Los Angeles-based company Hyland, which pulled the products from the market in the fall. They still may be circulating. But they may contain belladonna aka toxic “night shade,” and they have been linked to seizures in some babies. Officials have been warning about this remedy for some time now.
I’ve written how homeopathy is bunk and patient-consumers should away from its quacks and their concoctions. In my practice, sadly, I see how babies and children can be injured in so many ways. Let’s really ensure that we steer clear of obvious and avoidable harms.