Medical cannabis has its risks

Cannabis is a flowering plant that produces chemicals called cannabinoids, which can be used to treat the symptoms of many conditions, including arthritis. While cannabis can’t cure arthritis or slow disease progression, some people report that it helps to alleviate their symptoms of pain, inflammation and anxiety.  If you’re using or thinking about using medical cannabis and are planning to start a family, there are a few important things to know.

Note: Self-medicating with recreational cannabis is not a safe substitute for receiving medical cannabis from a licensed seller under the direction of your healthcare provider.

Guidelines

According the Canadian Rheumatology Association, people who are pregnant, breast-feeding or planning to become pregnant should not use medical cannabis.  It should also not be used by people under the age of 25, people with allergies to cannabinoid chemicals, or anyone with a history of current or past psychotic illness, substance abuse disorder, or suicidal ideation.

Planning for Pregnancy

Those who are planning to become pregnant are at increased risk for reproductive and pregnancy complications with cannabis use. Several studies that have analyzed the impact of cannabis on our bodies found that cannabis interacts with our hormone regulation system and can cause fluctuations in reproductive hormones responsible for ovulation, milk production and birthing. Additionally, long-term use of products high in THC can lead to a decrease in sperm count, concentration and motility, as well as an increase in abnormal sperm morphology.  This can make conception more difficult.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

In people who are pregnant, the chemicals found in cannabis can be transferred to the fetus and have adverse effects on development and fetal health.  In fact, a recent animal study found that daily cannabis use led to decreased brain and liver growth in fetal growth. Cannabinoids can also be passed to a baby through breast milk and can negatively impact cognitive and motor development in infants.

What to do?

If you are taking medications for treatment of your arthritis, consult with your health care team while family planning. Depending on the type of medication, your health care provider may recommend reducing dosage or stopping altogether (in the case of medical cannabis). Working with your health care team can help ensure a safer, healthier family planning process.

Learn more on our Medical Cannabis webpage. 

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