The legalization of cannabis and its distribution through a state-owned company have made it a more easily accessible consumer product. Marijuana still remains a psychoactive substance that can have undesirable effects, particularly during pregnancy. However, a recent study by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ) shows that the risks are still unknown for many women.
As part of the study entitled “Social representations of cannabis use during pregnancy”, the scientific advisor specialized in the direction of the development of individuals and communities, Louise Pouliot, concludes that the women questioned were “very little informed of the specific health risks”.
The researcher also observes that cannabis consumers then turn to social networks and try to explain their choice by “different personal logics of consumption” rather than opening up to health professionals due to the stigma associated with cannabis. drug.
However, although we do not swim in an abundance of scientific evidence on the impacts of cannabis during pregnancy, certain risks have been well documented, according to the professor in the addiction service of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sherbrooke. , Karine Bertrand.
She mentions that the indicator best supported by empirical evidence is that of low birth weight of the newborn. Then, if we do not yet know very well the consequences, we also know that cannabis crosses the placenta and that cannabinoid receptors in the brain are formed very early in the development of the fetus.
“So the recommendation to avoid exposure to cannabis comes from the fact that there is a potential risk,” summarizes Professor Bertrand. We know that there is a product there which is psychoactive, which will cross the placenta and which will be picked up by the receptors in the child’s brain. »
In a state of knowledge update published by the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction, dated May 2022, cannabis is highlighted as the second most commonly used psychoactive substance during pregnancy. The first is alcohol.
It is also claimed that longer-term effects have been observed in children whose mothers used cannabis regularly during pregnancy. During childhood, adolescence and even early adulthood, they would be more likely to develop “attention disorders, emotional disorders, hyperactivity and impulsivity, sleep disorders and substance use.”
Furthermore, the use of cannabis by a breastfeeding mother could also have consequences on the child. Still according to the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction’s publication, entitled “Clearing the Smoke Around Cannabis”, “cannabis compounds can pass into breast milk” which the child ingests and metabolizes.
Among the “lines of reflection” proposed by Louise Pouliot, she cites the need to develop and disseminate “public health messages about the effects of cannabis consumption during pregnancy”. All while focusing on “a neutral, non-stigmatizing and support-oriented language”, specifies the INSPQ researcher.
The expert also suggests using social media to reach the women concerned. She is also of the opinion that health professionals need to be better equipped so that their patients are less reluctant to talk about their cannabis use.
According to Professor Karine Bertrand, the scientific community agrees on the urgency of accelerating studies on the effects of cannabis for the mother and the fetus.
The addiction specialist also believes that the legalization of cannabis “offers an opportunity to open dialogue more easily” for health professionals and that they must take advantage of it.