Marijuana and Hyperemesis

Erin - posted on 11/08/2010 ( 10 moms have responded )

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For those of you who don't know, Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is the severe, debilitating and at times life-threatening chronic nausea and vomiting affecting some women in pregnancy. It is not standard morning sickness, or even 'bad' morning sickness. It is on another level completely.

From Wiki: When HG is severe and/or inadequately treated, it may result in:

Loss of 5% or more of pre-pregnancy body weight
Dehydration, causing ketosis and constipation
Nutritional deficiencies
Metabolic imbalances
Altered sense of taste
Sensitivity of the brain to motion
Food leaving the stomach more slowly
Rapidly changing hormone levels during pregnancy
Stomach contents moving back up from the stomach
Physical and emotional stress of pregnancy on the body
Subconjunctival hemorrhage (broken blood vessels in the eyes)
Difficulty with daily activities
Hallucinations

It can also lead to organ failure and even death. Some women require NG tubes or PICC lines for nutritional support, or become so ill they are forced to terminate much-wanted pregnancies.

Mainstream treatments for this horrific condition include anti-emetics (often Zofran, which is used to treat side-effects of chemo) and regular IV fluids and electrolytes for rehydration. But there is an underground movement of women utilising the medicinal properties of marijuana to gain relief from HG. Marijuana's anti-nausea properties are well-known, but there are no clinical trials done on the effectiveness or safety for the baby due to the ethical implication of exposing the fetus to potential harm.

The use of marijuana to treat HG is often justified by the fact that the current prescription drugs are not risk-free for pregnancy. Most agree that it is unwise to smoke it (for the same reasons cigarettes are bad) but use it in cooking or as a tincture. Some have the opinion that it is the lesser of two evils... the risk associated with the marijuana or the risk of complications to both mother and baby from HG.

I have a personal interest in this topic. My maternal grandmother, aunt and mother all had HG. My Mum spent both pregnancies in and out of hospital. She was so sick while pregnant with my younger brother that I basically had to live with my grandparents. After my brother was born, her doctor told her to get her tubes tied because she could not risk another pregnancy. HG has a strong genetic component, so when I found out I was pregnant I was also filled with dread. Though somehow I managed to escape the HG-curse of my mother's family.

I will admit I'm torn on this issue. Because of my family history, part of me can completely understand a desperate pregnant mumma resorting to marijuana in a bid to maintain her pregnancy. Then there's that little voice that says no way.

So what do you think about the role of marijuana in treating HG? Do you have any experience with the condition? Would you consider it if none of the mainstream treatments worked?

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Tara - posted on 11/08/2010

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I have used it to treat HG in my fifth pregnancy with the knowledge of my midwife. She certainly didn't recommend it but let me know that she was A-OK with me using it. I didn't smoke it, I ate it in the form of muffins. It was the only thing that kept me from being put into the hospital for the remainder of the pregnancy. I had already spent time there on two occasions due to extremely low levels of electrolytes and fluid levels due to puking so much. I had tried all the other drugs they can give you. I thought pot might work for me the way it worked for my uncle when he had cancer and the chemo made him so sick he couldn't eat at all. Having been a pot smoker before I got pregnant it wasn't new to be, however it was tricky getting the dosage right. I never actually felt a buzz but my nausea improved so much I told my own medical doctor about the experience and he acknowledged that it's unfortunate that there aren't more studies done as it could potentially be very helpful for women with HG, and all studies done on Cannabis and pregnancy are inconclusive to begin with. More studies need to be done for sure, but it's hard to get women to admit to using marijuana at all let alone during pregnancy. But without studies no one will ever know the true effects and whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Personally my pregnancy was made 100% better by the use of pot and I was able to go to term and have a healthy happy home birth. She was over 7 lbs and 4 days late.
So, having not read all the replies and fearing I may have gone against the grain here, I'm ducking for cover and letting everyone know, I did my research first and I'm okay with pot and pregnancy, pot and breastfeeding and medicinal pot in general.
:)

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Rosie - posted on 11/08/2010

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maybe, if it were tested a bit more. but even then, i'm not so sure. my sister (yes, she's a winner) gave birth to my nephew 5 weeks early. whether or not marijuana had anything to do with that is obviously unclear, however DHS was called on her, because he had marijuana in his system. i'm not sure if i'm willing to risk having my child taken away (he wasn't) for relief. but then again, i can't begin to comprehend what having hyperemesis is like.

Kate CP - posted on 11/08/2010

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I have hyperemesis and I've never heard of treating it with pot. I'd be leery of trying marijuana simply because there isn't adequate testing on pregnant moms. But, if NOTHING else worked then yea, I'd try it. I hate having HG and I'd do anything to stop the vomiting. Thankfully Zofran works for me.

Amanda - posted on 11/08/2010

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I have never heard of this..but I could see why people would resort to marijuana! I don't think that just anyone has the right to smoke marijuana but if it is for a debilitating and horrible illness than that's what it resorts too. Yes I agree that if it were injested in another form other than smoking it may not be as bad, but what does marijuana actually do that's soo bad? It makes people hungry, and sleep. It helps cancer patients tolerate food. It helps insomniacs sleep. It's actually proven not to be addictive physically, only mentally. You can not overdose on it. It does slower your reaction speed but it doesn't kill people like alcohol does, it doesn't cause accidents like alcohol does, yet alcohol is legal and some doctors actually recommend a few drinks of wine DURING pregnancy! So I don't think a few hits of marijuana is actually that bad and if it's not going to ruin your life or harm your baby but actually help your pregnancy be more healthy than I would rather use that than be soo sick and miserable.

Erin - posted on 11/08/2010

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Tara I certainly wouldn't condemn you for using it to treat your HG. Even though I have reservations about it (mainly the dosage when people are self-medicating), part of me wishes it had been suggested to my mother when she was battling HG. It would have kept her out of hospital and able to care for me.

And for the record, I am not, nor have ever been, a pot smoker. I hate it actually lol. But it's use in medicine needs to be explored further, and sooner rather than later.

Erin - posted on 11/08/2010

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There is, though I don't know if it's approved for use in pregnancy? I definitely agree that a regulated pill form would be preferable to people concocting their own herbal remedies with it.

[deleted account]

Just for some information:
http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/rep...
This is a study done on pregnant mothers who were already smoking marijuana (ie. not asked to smoke it just to test the hypothesis). Evidently smoking MJ has an effect on neonates, and rarely a newborn baby.

If I were to suffer from this condition, I would consider at least using it in tea or in cooking (if that is just as effective). Can't be any worse than the car fumes and other pollutants we're breathing in every day.

Charlie - posted on 11/08/2010

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Two girls i know had diagnosed Hyperemeisis both were given medication BOTH only had success with marijuana to stop the vomiting and make them feel human again .

I too am torn on this, i would prefer if it wasnt smoked but taken in a different way eaten , drank in a tea or in pill form .

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