Cannabinoids and the Stages of Development of Children
Nursing mothers can be “inexperienced” when it comes to cannabis use. Traditional research is not in support of it. But traditional research has sprung from an era during which cannabis was prohibited and demonized socially. This despite the fact that in 1937, when marijuana was banned nationwide, the American Medical Association (AMA) objected on the grounds that it would “deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value.”
Current research on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), however, sheds more light on the role played by cannabinoids during pregnancy and in the infant’s early stages of development.
The use of cannabis, even by pregnant women, is on the rise daily. A lot of questions are now being asked on whether or not this has positive or negative effects on mothers and babies. For example, does it have positive or negative effects on brain development or stages of development in children of mothers who use cannabinoids during pregnancy and breastfeeding? The effect on pregnancy and its symptoms is also being studied.
Gold standard scientific evidence is not readily available. Nevertheless, overwhelming data gives the clear suggestion that cannabis should not be taken carelessly by nursing or expectant mothers. Studies have shown that the ECS and endocannabinoids play a critical role in human development. They also play essential roles in gestation, ovulation, and even early life. Endocannabinoids in the brain of humans are essential to the core functions of survival.
However, one thing that should be taken into consideration is the optimum amount of cannabinoids that the body can accommodate. When the mother takes in cannabinoids, the baby does too.
Cannabinoids can be excreted from the human body through urine, blood, and saliva. They can also be dissolved in fatty liquids. Therefore, one way that the baby can get its own dose of cannabinoids is from breast milk.
This may be viewed as a negative. But as a matter of fact, a lot of natural endocannabinoids are present in breast milk. The implication of this is that certain kinds of cannabinoids are good for both mother and child. The question that remains open, is, how much and which ones are essential?
What Kind of Cannabinoids Are Present in Breast Milk?
The most abundant cannabinoid present in breast milk is called 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG). 2-AG also stimulates cell receptors stimulated by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The most interesting fact is that 2-AG is essential in maintaining the life of neonates (an infant less than four weeks old). It triggers the suckling response and muscles of the tongue. These functions are all regulated and controlled by the CB1 receptors.
In the absence of these cannabinoids, newborns may develop a disease known as the non-organic ability to thrive. This condition results from an inability of the baby to consume enough food suitable to sustain itself.
Babies may be less prone to the psychoactive effects of THC compared to adults.
There is still need for a lot of research on this subject, but novel findings suggest that decades of anti-drug research may not be correct after all.
Cannabinoids and Development of the Child
A study conducted in 2004 suggested that endocannabinoids play a critical role in both prenatal and postnatal stages of development in children. The uterus and embryos have a large number of cannabinoid receptors and anandamide. The levels of anandamide (a mammalian endocannabinoid made by the body) naturally reduce once implantation of the embryo occurs. There is the possibility that high levels of anandamide play a role in miscarriage.
Studies carried out in the 1980s have been inconclusive in their findings. Consumption of cannabis by nursing and expectant mothers has consistently been on the rise. A study conducted in 1985 found that there was no significant impact on babies with moms that smoked cannabis during pregnancy.
Another study, much larger, and conducted in 1990, had a contrary result. This study found significant differences in motor ability in children exposed to cannabis.
That said, the study made an assumption that was common to others of the era; the use of cannabis was lumped in with tobacco and alcohol use, which are known to affect cognitive and physical development in children.
However, there has yet to be an extensive study of mothers who used only cannabis during nursing or pregnancy.
Experts on Breastfeeding and Cannabinoids
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) reeled out a set of guidelines on cannabis use in 2015.
The academy stated that there was not enough evidence one way or the other. However, all have been advised to be cautious when using cannabis both when nursing and when pregnant.
A survey of lactation professionals carried out in 2015 found that their members practiced great caution when prescribing the drug. As a matter of fact, all prescription reports were on a case-by-case basis. The study found that at least 15 percent of participants had made use of cannabis during this period. The majority of those surveyed also admitted that they advised against the use of the substance while nursing or pregnant.
Dr. Kerr, in Northern California, has many years of experience with a population of patients that commonly uses marijuana, including pregnant and nursing mothers. In the hundreds of pregnancies that she has attended, she has never seen any complications due to marijuana use. This prompted her to compare studies that have been done on the subject, which she found to be either too subjective or inconclusive.
Additionally, she has also surveyed mothers from a large commune from the 1970s known as “The Farm” and at which marijuana was a part of the culture. She was unable to find any negative correlation between mothers who used marijuana and their now grown children.
Why All the Gaps in Cannabinoid Science?
The lack of knowledge about cannabis and this critical period of human life is due to one factor: the absence of real and objective research. Most of the studies conducted center on harm reduction. The role of cannabinoids in pregnancy and stages of development in children have not been fully examined. In fact, this concept came to limelight at the beginning of the century.
Of course, this knowledge is sure to change, though it may do so slowly. Human trials, as we know, cannot be run on test subjects. In the meantime, a lot of these questions will begin to be answered indirectly. An accurate and concise comprehension of the endocannabinoid system is still in its infancy.
The Nature’s Breakthrough educational resource is just one of the ways The Hemp Haus practices its sincere commitment to and passion for educating people about CBD and helping them find the right, high-quality product based on their needs.
- Andrade C. Cannabis and neuropsychiatry, 1: Benefits and risks. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2016; 77(5):551–554. [PubMed]
- Bailey JR, Cunny HC, Paule MG, Slikker W Jr. Fetal disposition of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) during late pregnancy in the rhesus monkey. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. 1987; 90(2):315–321. [PubMed]
- Berenson AB, Wilkinson GS, Lopez LA. Effects of prenatal care on neonates born to drug-using women. Substance Use and Misuse. 1996; 31(8):1063–1076. [PubMed]
- Bluhm EC, Daniels J, Pollock BH, Olshan AF. Maternal use of recrational drugs and neuroblastoma in offspring. Cancer Causes and Control. 2006; 17(5):663–669. [PubMed]
- Budde MP, De Lange TE, Dekker GA, Chan A, Nguyen AMT. Risk factors for placental abruption in a socio-economically disadvantaged region. Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine. 2007; 20(9):687–693. [PubMed]
- CBHSQ (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed tables. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2016. [November 23, 2016]. http://www .samhsa.gov /data/sites/default /files/NSDUH-DetTabs2014 /NSDUH-DetTabs2014.pdf.
- CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment). Monitoring health concerns related to marijuana in Colorado: 2014. 2015. [November 23, 2016]. http://www2 .cde.state .co.us/artemis/hemonos /he1282m332015internet /he1282m332015internet01.pdf.
- Day NL, Richardson GA. Prenatal marijuana use: Epidemiology, methodologic issues, and infant outcome. Chemical Dependency and Pregnancy. 1991; 18(1):77–91. [PubMed]
- Day NL, Goldschmidt L, Day R, Larkby C, Richardson GA. Prenatal marijuana exposure, age of marijuana initiation, and the development of psychotic symptoms in young adults. Psychological Medicine. 2015; 45(8):1779–1787. [PubMed]
- Dekker GA, Lee SY, North RA, McCowan LM, Simpson NA, Roberts CT. Risk factors for preterm birth in an international prospective cohort of nulliparous women. PLOS ONE. 2012; 7(7):e39154. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
- El Marroun H, Tiemeier H, Steegers EAP, Roos-Hesselink JW, Jaddoe VWV, Hofman A, Verhulst FC, van den Brink W, Huizink AC. A prospective study on intrauterine cannabis exposure and fetal blood flow. Early Human Development. 2010; 86(4):231–236. [PubMed]
- Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ, Northstone K. Maternal use of cannabis and pregnancy outcome. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2002; 109(1):21–27. [PubMed]
- Forray A, Merry B, Lin H, Ruger JP, Yonkers KA. Perinatal substance use: A prospective evaluation of abstinence and relapse. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2015; 150:147–155. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
- Forrester M, Merz R. Comparison of trends in gastroschisis and prenatal illicit drug use rates. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues. 2006; 69(13):1253–1259. [PubMed]
- Frank DA, Bauchner H, Parker S, Huber AM, Kwabena KA, Cabral H, Zuckerman B. Neonatal body proportionality and body composition after in utero exposure to cocaine and marijuana. Journal of Pediatrics. 1990; 117(4):622–626. [PubMed]
- Fried PA, Watkinson B. 12- and 23-month neurobehavioural follow-up of children prenatally exposed to marihuana, cigarettes and alcohol. Neurotoxicology and Teratology. 1988; 10:305–313. [PubMed]