Is Medical Marijuana An Acceptable Solution For Severe Morning Sickness? The Highs, Lows, And Unknowns

You're pregnant with your first child. Although you are happy and excited about the miracle that is soon to be entering your life, you are also suffering from debilitating morning sickness that threatens your health and your job. A friend says that she has heard that marijuana may help reduce this effect of the changes going on in your body. You're ready to try most anything, but is this remedy safe for the baby that grows in your belly and for whom you will do anything to keep healthy? It's not always a black-and-white choice.

The Background

For many years, women have been using marijuana (cannabis), usually secretly, to relax, relieve stress and overcome morning sickness associated with pregnancy. In the last few decades, a lot of research highlights the beneficial effects of THC, the predominant active ingredient of marijuana, for treating nausea in patients undergoing cancer treatments, as well as for the nausea associated with pregnancy.

Now that many states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, more and more pregnant women are wondering if it's an effective and safe solution. This is where you need to carefully consider the risks and benefits of your choice.

The Risks

According to the US National Institutes of Health, prenatal exposure to cannabis may inhibit fetal growth, impair memory and cause learning disabilities. Although researchers haven't definitively discovered how marijuana affects the fetal brain, most believe that the brain is more sensitive to THC during early development. THC is thought to interfere with nerve connections, especially in the part of the brain responsible for cognitive skills and memory formation.

According to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, pregnant women who use marijuana are more likely to give birth to babies suffering from effects similar to fetal alcohol syndrome: low birth weight, exaggerated startle response, tremors, poorer eyesight and a heart abnormality called ventricular septal defect. In addition, babies whose mother's smoked (or ate pot edibles) while pregnant have a greater risk of developing asthma and other breathing problems.


Most pregnant women suffer some degree of morning sickness, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. It's not pleasant, but it's not dangerous. However, in rare cases, women can suffer a severe type of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). With this type of morning sickness, the mother cannot keep down food or prenatal vitamins, which is harmful to the mother's health and deprives the baby of critical nutrients necessary for a developing fetus. Marijuana has helped such women control their nausea and vomiting so that they and their babies can get the nutrients they need.

Ultimately, the mother and her obstetrics professional need to carefully consider the pros and cons of marijuana use. There is no doubt, it can relieve stress and nausea, but it can also have serious repercussions for the baby, so the decision must not be taken lightly.