Pot & pregnancy throughout history

Five-year follow-up of rural Jamaican children whose mothers used marijuana during pregnancy
January 9, 2018
Is Smoking Pot While Pregnant Safe For The Baby?
January 30, 2018

In the Eber Papyrus, the ancient Egyptians noted the use of cannabis to induce contractions.

In Israel in 1993, researchers found the skeleton of a 14-year-old girl who died while giving birth because the baby’s head was too big for her to deliver. The researchers concluded that an ancient midwife may have administered cannabis in an attempt to encourage the delivery, for carbonized cannabis residue was found in the tomb.

The Ninth Century Persian medical expert Sabur Ibn Sahl noted the use of cannabis in his Al-Aqrabadhin Al-Saghir. According to Sahl, the juice of cannabis seeds and other herbs were mixed together to prevent miscarriage and relieve pain in the uterus.

The Codex Vindobonensis, thought to be a 13th Century Italian copy of an earlier, possibly Roman work, describes the use of cannabis for stimulating milk flow in mothers.

The Chinese medical text Pen T’sao Kang Mu, written by Shih-Chen in 1596, described the use of hemp root juice to retain the placenta and prevent hemorrhage immediately after birth.

German folk medicine of the 1800’s recommended rubbing a cannabis preparation on the swelling breasts of new mothers to relieve pain.

In 1851, Dr Alexander Christison used tincture of cannabis to successfully treat pregnant women who suffered from stalled labors, inducing many successful births. His work was reproduced by Dr Grigor the next year.

In 1854, the Dispensatory of the United States acknowledged the use of cannabis to hasten a stalled labor. Subsequently, many doctors in the US and France described their resounding successes in using pot to speed stalled deliveries.

In 1862, Wright noted that cannabis was excellent for relieving nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. He noted one case of extreme nausea: His patient was “suffering to an extent that threatened death, with vomiting” and none of his traditional remedies worked. When treated with cannabis, however, the illness retreated immediately.

The 1800’s saw doctors in the US, France, Britain, and India recognize cannabis’ usefulness in treating uterine bleeding. The same was noted by Sajous and Sajous in 1924.

In 1880, French doctors noted cannabis’ benefits in cases where women hemorrhaged profusely after childbirth.

In 1893-94, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission noted the use of cannabis for prolonged labor.

In 1903, in the US, Dr Bartholow noted the use of cannabis for promoting uterine contractions and was quoted in popular medical texts. The same was noted again in 1924, by Doctors Sajous and Sajous.

In 1960, in Czechoslovakia, a team of investigators discovered that cannabis extract in alcohol and glycerin was excellent for treating tears in the nipples of nursing mothers and thus prevented infection and mastitis.

In 1975, Martin noted that Cambodian mothers used an infusion of flowering cannabis tops and other herbs to stimulate milk production when it was low.

In 1997, Dr Melanie Dreher published her study of Jamaican women which found that they frequently employed cannabis, without any harm to the baby, to prevent nausea during pregnancy.

In a 2003 report, Dr Ester Fride of the College of Judea and Samaria explained how scientists discovered that mother’s milk was also controlled by the endocannabinoid system, and that cannabinoids are even found in the luscious liquid itself. Cannabinoids in mother’s milk, says Fride, are “critical for survival” as they stimulate the initiation of suckling in the newborn.

A 2004 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that a pregnant woman’s level of anandamide, the natural body chemical which is mimicked by THC, rises by about four times when she goes into labor. Researchers tentatively concluded that the rise of anandamide could be the body’s way of inducing labor. This begins to explain how using cannabis helps a stalled labor. Other recent studies have also shown a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the uterus.

? Many of these references were taken from Cannabis Treatments in Obstetrics and Gynecology: An Historical Review, by Dr Ethan Russo, MD. The Haworth Press. 2002.

Studying toking moms

Some of the best research into the effects that cannabis-using moms have on their children has been done by Dr Melanie Dreher, Dean and Professor at the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing (CC#15, Dr Melanie Dreher, reefer researcher).

Earlier, methodologically flawed studies done in the US showed that among pot-using pregnant moms, children had a lower birth weight and were more likely to suffer Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. But these studies compared pot-smoking women who lived at the poverty level with non-tokers who enjoyed a higher standard of living.

When Dreher corrected for the poverty level by doing a cross-cultural study in Jamaica, she found that children of pot-using pregnant women were more well adjusted, better organized, had “more robust motor and autonomic systems,” were less irritable, and were “more rewarding for caregivers.”

FOOTNOTES

1) Wise Woman’s Herbal for the Childbearing Year, by Susun S Weed. Ash Tree, Woodstock, NY. 1986. p 64.
2) Weed, p 72.
3) From Witches to Crack Moms: Women, Drug Law and Policy, by Susan C Boyd. Carolina Academic Press, Durham, NC. 2004. pp 112-113.
4) Newborn Twins on Drugs at Birth, by Jim McBride. The Amarillo Globe-News, Texas. June 12, 2004.
5) Boyd, p 108.
6) Criminal Prosecutions Against Pregnant Women, by Paltrow. Reproductive freedom project, NY. 1992.
7) Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica: An Ethnographic Study,by Melanie C Dreher, Kevin Nugent, and Rebekah Hudgins. Pediatrics, Vol 93, Issue 2, pp 254-260. February 1994.

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