Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jun 2018
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Carly Weeks


With the legalization of cannabis only a few months away, one of
Canadaa€™s top medical organizations is warning women about the risks
the drug poses if used during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of
Canada, marijuana use can lead to preterm birth and low birth weight,
as well as lower IQ and hyperactivity after a child is born.

a€œWe want to make sure women understand just because ita€™s legal
doesna€™t mean ita€™s safe,a€ said Jocelynn Cook, chief scientific
officer with the SOGC. a€œThe science does suggest there are effects
on pregnancy and on fetal development.a€

The organization is launching a social-media campaign aimed at women
of childbearing age to inform them of the potential risks of cannabis
use ahead of Oct. 17, the day the drug is scheduled to become legal in
Canada. A YouTube video cautions that cannabis has more than 400
chemicals that can be passed to a fetus during pregnancy or

Despite the warnings, many women believe marijuana is safe, even in
pregnancy, Dr. Cook said. A 2015 study published in the American
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found 70 per cent of women
surveyed believe consuming cannabis once or twice a week during
pregnancy poses no, or only slight, risks. The study also found 4 per
cent of pregnant women reported using cannabis in the previous month.

Last month, a study in the same journal found about 70 per cent of
Colorado dispensaries recommend marijuana to pregnant women to
alleviate nausea.

One of the reasons cannabis is perceived as safe is because it is a
natural herb, Dr. Cook said. Public health experts have to counter
those messages with facts about potential risks, she said.

The campaign to inform women about the dangers of cannabis is akin to
similar campaigns from years ago about the risks of drinking alcohol
during pregnancy and breastfeeding, she said.

And, much like alcohol, cannabis use during pregnancy or when
breastfeeding is a difficult area to study. For instance, researchers
cana€™t ethically give pregnant women cannabis and wait to see the
effects. As a result, there is not a large scientific body of evidence
and many of the studies pointing to dangers such as preterm birth or
cognitive impairments were conducted a few decades ago.

Dr. Cook said agencies such as Health Canada must commit to funding
cannabis research in order to properly understand the potential health
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