DOES MARIJUANA HAVE A PLACE IN WOMEN’S HEALTH?

There’s no doubt medical marijuana has been a hot topic of discussion as its legalization has been gaining traction across the country. Let’s learn where the evidence currently stands in women’s health and wellness.


BY: KENDRA TOLBERT, MS, RDN, CDN, CLC

Mary Jane, weed, pot, Bobo bash. No matter what you call it, marijuana can be a very polarizing topic.

It’s nearly impossible to even talk about cannabis, medical or recreational, without folks assuming you’re a stereotypical pothead. Even though there are medically legitimate reasons to take it and it’s the most used recreational drug in the U.S, there’s a stigma around marijuana that can make it difficult to discuss objectively.

Nearly half of the U.S. population has tried it at least once. With more and more states decriminalizing its use, medical marijuana going mainstream (even Whoopi Goldberg has medical cannabis line of products for menstrual issues), and Well + Good dubbing cannabis as one of THE wellness trends to watch in 2017, its use will likely continue to increase.

With its growing popularity, you may have some questions about how it affects women’s health. In this article we’ll answer some of those questions. Before we get started, remember we’re not here to pass a moral judgment. We just want to provide you with the info and facts so you can make a decision that’s right for you and your health.

With that being said, let’s start it off by mentioning that the American College of Gynecologists strongly encourages women to avoid taking or using marijuana in all its forms while they’re trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding.

Alright, let’s jump in and answer your questions about marijuana.

What’s the difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana?

Medical marijuana is cannabis dispensed from medical dispensaries at the recommendation of a physician. Different strains are grown and recommended based on their unique cannabinoid content.

Cannabinoids are the naturally occurring chemicals in cannabis, and are what give marijuana its medicinal properties. They’re the reason cannabis can dampen inflammation, kill bacteria, mellow out a stressed-out mind, and soothe anxiety.

Each strain of medical marijuana has a unique composition, a special medley of natural chemicals that affect different body systems in different ways. This makes each strain especially effective for specific concerns. Medical marijuana is also significantly lower in THC than recreational marijuana, the cannabinoid which makes recreational marijuana so alluring. THC is what induces the ‘high’ feeling that recreational users seek.

So, no, medical marijuana won’t get you high.

Recreational marijuana can legally be purchased or grown in a handful of states. In those states, there are recreational marijuana stores you can purchase weed from. In states where recreational use has not been legalized, many people still grow, sell, and buy marijuana, but they do so illegally.

Recreational marijuana’s THC levels are significantly higher than what you’ll find in medical varieties, giving them exaggerated psychoactive properties. Plus, if you purchase pot from any place other than a dispensary or store, you really can’t ensure purity. That’s because it’s pretty common for sellers to mix in additives, and those additives can have unpredictable and dangerous side effects.

What diseases and conditions are medical marijuana recommended for?

Every state which allows the medical use of marijuana has different qualifying conditions. Below, you’ll find a list of qualifying conditions from all the states with legislation allowing for the use of medical marijuana. For information about your specific state, click this link. Here are a few:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/ AIDS
  • Cachexia
  • Chronic Pain
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • PTSD
  • Hepatitis C
  • ALS
  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Alzheimer’s Disease

Edibles vs. inhalation vs vaporization, what’s the difference?

When it comes to marijuana, people have gotten downright creative. The ways in which people use marijuana are darn near infinite, and each method affects your body in varying ways and to differing degrees.

Edibles take a longer time to have an effect than smoking or vaping. They’re also said to result in a calmer, more relaxed high.  And because they take longer to have an effect, sometimes people will eat more than they should. That’s when things can get scary.

Both vaping and edibles also deliver more THC than smoking. Smoking and vaping have a quicker effect, but smoking is thought to be more damaging to your lungs than vaping. Marijuana is also tinctured, juiced, and applied topically.

What about hemp?

We can’t talk about marijuana without addressing hemp, since they are the same genus and species but with different chemical composition.

Marijuana is much higher in THC than hemp, so hemp will not cause you to get high and shouldn’t give you a false positive on a drug test. Hemp seeds, milk, and flour are all great sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals. All of these things play a role in creating a healthy, happy body and mind.

What does the research say about women’s health and marijuana?

ANOVULATION

Ovulation, the release of a mature egg from the ovaries, is a crucial step in conception. So anything that could disrupt normal ovulation isn’t your friend when you’re trying to conceive. Marijuana is one thing that can do just that. In one study, women who reported smoking marijuana were more likely to have delayed ovulation or not ovulate at all.

INFERTILITY

Marijuana’s effect on fertility doesn’t appear to be permanent, so just because you smoked back in high school, there’s no reason to assume it will have an effect on your fertility now or in the future.

Back in 1990, researchers discovered women who smoked marijuana were almost twice as likely to experience infertility than women who didn’t. But the effect was only seen in women who had smoked within a year of trying. After the year mark, there wasn’t a huge difference in risk of infertility between smokers and non-smokers.

Does marijuana negatively impact pregnancy or breastfeeding?

As you can imagine, there aren’t clinical trials to study how THC or marijuana affect pregnant women and the baby. It’s not exactly ethical to inject pregnant women with THC or give them joints to smoke. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have some info about how marijuana seems to impact pregnancy.

When compared to women who don’t report using marijuana, women who do smoke marijuana are more likely to:

  • give birth preterm
  • give birth to babies who are small for their age
  • give birth to babies with a low birth weight
  • have their babies admitted to the NICU

As for breastfeeding, smoking marijuana lowers prolactin (the hormone that causes women to make breast milk) so it may negatively affect breastfeeding.

The choice is ultimately yours.

As with all herbs and herbal products, there are many things to weigh when considering cannabis. Federal and state laws, personal and spiritual views, occupational rules and regulations, the opinions and wishes of your family and health care providers, research findings, and your current health status and fertility goals must be considered.

If you’d like even more tidbits about the constantly evolving world of cannabis, head over to The Holistic Cannabis Network.

Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: SURACHET KHAROPWONGCHAI

Kendra Tolbert, MS, RDN, CDN, CLC is a registered dietitian nutritionist, certified lactation counselor, and certified aromatherapist based in Alexandria, VA. Through her private practice, she helps women and couples prepare for pregnancy and enjoy healthier, happier pregnancies. Learn more about Kendra at Live Fertile.

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