In March 2017, Best Start, a key program of Health Nexus, published the resource Risks of Cannabis on Fertility, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Parenting to respond to the needs of service providers across Ontario.
This resource summarizes the current knowledge about the effects of cannabis use can have on health, learning, relationships, fertility, pregnancy and children. The resource is available in and PDF. The resource is also available in French.
The concerns and misconceptions are numerous, as demonstrated by comments collected from parents when we focus tested the resource. Parents stated:
- Cannabis calms parents who are prone to anxiety or overreaction and therefore better enables them to interact with their children.
- I personally know of cases of children who eat brownies to help with behaviour.
There is a pressing need to educate the public, as maternal cannabis use has been linked to effects on children's brain development, behaviour and mental health. As a result of exposure to cannabis during pregnancy, a child may have difficulties with learning, behaviour and mental health in later life (. In April 2018, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (SOGC), urged Canadians to avoid cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Cannabis is not recommended to treat morning sickness or for medical purposes during pregnancy as more cannabis is taken during pregnancy, the more it affects the baby’s developing brain.
The key messages for parents are:
- There is no known safe amount of cannabis use in pregnancy and when breastfeeding.
- If unable to stop use of cannabis completely, try using less and less often.
- If a child ate cannabis, get medical help right away.
- It may be risky to buy and use food products containing cannabis due to lack of regulation and inspection of the cannabis industry.
- If parenting when high, be sure that there is always someone available who is not high to take care of the child’s needs.
- Cannabis impairs the ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Never drive while impaired, with or without a child in the car.
The Public Health Agency of Canada contracted the Best Start Resource Centre to adapt the booklet, “Risks of Cannabis on Fertility, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Parenting” (2017). The PHAC’s two new resources will be available shortly. They provide easy to read information titled: Thinking about using cannabis before or during pregnancy and Thinking about using cannabis while parenting.
Parents are encouraged to keep learning about the effects of cannabis as new information becomes available. More research is needed to clearly understand all the possible health effects of cannabis use, before and during pregnancy, while breastfeeding and parenting.