A woman exhales after taking a hit from a bong during the annual 4/20 cannabis culture celebration at Sunset Beach in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 20, 2016. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is warning pregnant and breastfeeding women about the potential dangers of cannabis use. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
The legalization of cannabis and its distribution through a provincially-owned company (SQDC) have made it a more easily accessible consumer product. Yet marijuana remains a psychoactive substance that can have undesirable effects, particularly during pregnancy.
A recent Quebec institute of public health (INSPQ) study shows that many women are still unaware of the risks.
In a study entitled “Social representations of cannabis use during pregnancy,” Individual and Community Development Directorate specialist and scientific advisor Louise Pouliot concluded that the women questioned were “very little informed about the precise health risks.”
The researcher also observed that female cannabis users turn to social networks and try to explain their choice by “different personal reasons for using” rather than opening up to health professionals because of the stigma associated with the drug.
Although there is not an abundance of scientific evidence on the impact of cannabis during pregnancy, certain risks have been well documented, according to Karine Bertrand, a professor in the addiction department of the Université de Sherbrooke’s faculty of medicine.
She said that the indicator best supported by empirical evidence is low birth weight. While it is not yet known what the consequences are very well, we also know that cannabis crosses the placenta and that cannabinoid receptors in the brain are formed very early in the fetus’s development.
“So the recommendation to avoid exposure to cannabis comes from the fact that there is a potential risk,” said Bertrand. “We know that there is a psychoactive product there that will cross the placenta and be picked up by receptors in the child’s brain.”
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