In the News: CBC, Pregnant women asked to avoid cannabis in face of poor research

Nurse, doctor worry use of the soon-to-be-legal drug will exacerbate existing problems

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued a warning this month to people of child-bearing age, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, stating that THC can enter the placenta and breast milk. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)


Alberta medical professionals are warning that the upcoming legalization of cannabis may exacerbate the province’s problem of premature and low-weight infants.

Alberta has the highest rate of premature infants, as well as low-weight births, in the country, according to new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The stubborn statistic has barely budged, despite medical professionals trying to improve infant and maternal health, said Dr. Duncan McCubbin, an obstetrician based in Medicine Hat, Alta.

He said the upcoming legalization of cannabis is being touted as safe and may lead to more women using it during pregnancy.

“I’m extremely worried about the babies and the next generation of premature babies that are going to come in the next five to 10 years in the province in Alberta,” he said.

At issue is the research surrounding the medical safety of cannabis for pregnant women and infants, which has not met the “gold standard” of randomized studies of the effects.

And ethically, he said, such tests are hard to run while avoiding harm to participants or their fetuses.

‘Just don’t have the evidence’

A lack of evidence to the contrary does not mean that cannabis is safe. Early studies suggest carrying parents and their infants could potentially be harmed.

“We really have still not been able to solve the problem of premature babies, and we do know the risk factors, including smoking, lower socioeconomic class,” he said. “We just don’t have the evidence that cannabis use is not going to make that worse.”

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued a warning this month to people of child-bearing age, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

It said most people believe no harm could come from consuming cannabis while pregnant, but the organization warns the psychoactive component, THC, can get into the placenta and breast milk, which nurture fetuses and infants.

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