Read Melanie Dreher’s Interview at CafeMom!
By Janelle Stone
It’s almost too taboo to discuss: pregnant women smoking marijuana. It’s a dirty little secret for women, particularly during the harrowing first trimester, who turn to cannabis for relief from nausea and stress.
If you were to inquire about pot and pregnancy on the Web, Baby Center offers a strongly worded warning from Gerald Briggs, pharmacist clinical specialist.
Briggs says that pot affects the baby’s growth and development and–gasp!–may even cause childhood leukemia. But there are no facts or studies attributed to back up the claims.
More than 50 pages of comments were posted to the site about Briggs’ statements. Some proclaimed the virtues of smoking marijuana while pregnant, offering proof of healthy children and stories of functioning during pregnancy thanks to cannabis. Other comments viciously showed disdain for pregnant patients, resorting to name-calling.
jamaica marijuanaPregnant women in Jamaica use marijuana regularly to relieve nausea, as well as to relieve stress and depression, often in the form of a tea or tonic. In the late 1960s, grad student Melanie Dreher was chosen by her professors to perform an ethnographic study on marijuana use in Jamaica to observe and document its usage and its consequences among pregnant women.
Dreher studied 24 Jamaican infants exposed to marijuana prenatally and 20 infants that were not exposed. Her work evolved into the book Women and Cannabis: Medicine, Science and Sociology, part of which included her field studies.
Most North American studies have shown marijuana use can cause birth defects and developmental problems.
Those studies did not isolate marijuana use, however, lumping cannabis with more destructive substances ranging from alcohol and tobacco to meth and heroin.
In Jamaica, Dreher found a culture that policed its own ganja intake and considers its use spiritual. For the herb’s impact when used during pregnancy, she handed over reports utilizing the Brazelton Scale, the highly recognized neonatal behavioral assessment that evaluates behavior.
The profile identifies the baby’s strengths, adaptive responses and possible vulnerabilities. The researchers continued to evaluate the children from the study up to 5 years old. The results showed no negative impact on the children, on the contrary they seemed to excel.
Marijuana BrainPlenty of people did not like that answer, particularly her funders, the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They did not continue to flip the bill for the study and did not readily release its results.
“March of Dimes was supportive,” Dreher says. “But it was clear that NIDA was not interested in continuing to fund a study that didn’t produce negative results. I was told not to resubmit. We missed an opportunity to follow the study through adolescence and through adulthood.”
Now dean of nursing at Rush University with degrees in nursing, anthropology and philosophy, plus a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University, Dreher did not have experience with marijuana before she shipped off for Jamaica.
The now-marijuana advocate says that Raphael Mechoulam, the first person to isolate THC, should win a Pulitzer. Still, she understands that medical professionals shy from doing anything that might damage any support of their professionalism, despite marijuana’s proven medicinal effects, particularly for pregnant women.
Dr. Melanie Dreher’s study isn’t the first time Jamaican ganja smoking was subjected to scientific study. One of the most exhausting studies is Ganja in Jamaica–A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use by Vera Rubin and Lambros Comitas, published in 1975. Unfortunately for the National Institute of Mental Health’s Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse, the medical anthropological study concluded: “Despite its illegality, ganja use is pervasive, and duration and frequency are very high; it is smoked over a longer period in heavier quantities with greater THC potency than in the U.S. without deleterious social or psychological consequences [our emphasis].”
A few days ago I posted an urgent request for prayer on my facebook page. Russian government officials are trying to push a ban on US adoptions through parliament and, much to my shock and dismay, they have been successful so far. Last I hear the ban was going to be reviewed in full on December 26 before going to President Putin for a final signature. My knees go weak when I think about what this could mean for adoptive families who are in process and the children who are so desperately in need of families to love them. Yesterday this article was published in the Moscow Times which seems to suggest that all might not be lost and President Putin may refuse to sign the bill. Please pray that this is the case; pray that US/Russia adoptions will NOT be stopped and that children will still find their families and families their children. At the very least I am praying desperately that those families in-process will complete their adoptions before the potential ban goes into effect.
This morning John and I had out first post-placement visit from our social worker and she commented that we must be so relieved, having brought Arie home in the nick of time. Honestly I can hardly even let myself think about that. As I type this post my hands are trembling, just imagining the devastation we would have experienced had we already met and fell in love with him and then been forbidden from bringing him home. Some families have traveled just this week for their court dates and been sent home without seeing a judge. Truly, I can’t even imagine the pain they must fell. Like they can’t even breathe.
And on top of the pain, these families are now facing the holidays with so much uncertainty about the future. How do they find joy in Christmas when their worlds could be falling apart?I’ve also had the honor of hearing many different women share their stories with me through comments and private messages over the last few months. Many of those stories have lots of pain involved. My eyes sting to think of how many women have written and shared with me about infertility, miscarriages, deaths, and failed adoptions. I often feel overwhelmed by it all.
There are so many hurting hearts out there, wondering how to find joy this Christmas.
I was reflecting on these thoughts while reading the Christmas story from Luke and something in the second chapter struck me in a new way. It’s what the angels sing before the shepherds in verse 14:
Homosexuality begins in the womb according to this research. If you believe in reincarnation, it has been theorized that people can also be homosexual if in their past life they had been a male and in there new life are now female but are attracted to females still, and vice-avers.
…For example, specific epi-marks can help protect a female fetus from becoming excessively masculine if there is a rush of testosterone later in the pregnancy. They can affect the genitals, sexual identity, and even sexual partner preference….
From Scrubs Magazine:
Nurses, thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns about our recent prompt regarding birth plans. We are deeply sorry for appearing to make light of such a sensitive topic, which has upset nurses, our readers, and most importantly, mo
thers who found the topic of “outrageous birth plans” offensive and belittling. We appreciate and value your feedback and have pulled the post. Thanks to the nurses in Scrubsmag.com, we now recognize the need to address this topic more seriously. Therefore, we are putting together an in-depth article about birth plans and would like to invite you to contribute with your comments. We’re also opening the floor to any nurse who would like to write an article about this topic. We are so grateful for the passion and professionalism of our community. Your input helps make us a better site every day. If you would like to contribute ideas for this new article or write your own, please visit http://www.scrubsmag.com/birthplan for more details.
NURSES, WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Are you an expert and/or activist on birth plans, or know a nurse who is? Are you a champion of evidence-based maternity care? We’d like to hear your expertise, stories and experiences about the importance of birth plans and respecting parents’ wishes, and how nurses can help be a part of the education process.
If you’d like to be interviewed for an upcoming in-depth article on birth plans, please contact Scrubs at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to also share your comments, stories and experiences below, or click in to our submissions page.
via Scrubs Magazine.
Some Comments on this apology post from FaceBook Members:
Disrespecting a mother’s birth wishes is NOT something we need to “lighten up” over. This magazine asked nurses to ridicule birth plans, and oh boy did they EVER. I am completely horrified and disgusted by what I saw on that thread. “Lighten up” is a totally inappropriate response to that.
I’ve read a few birth plans. Sometimes, it’s just a wish list and the mum doesn’t feel strongly either way. Something I noticed, the more meticulous the plan, the more “outrageous” it looks, the more frightened the woman is of The System and her health care providers. Her care plan for labour is her saying, “I’m terrified. I’m worried about the care im going to get. I’m scared that you’re going to ignore my wishes. I’m scared that your policies are more important to you than my dignity. I’m scared that your time constraints or guidelines will make you totally ignore things I consider sacrosanct. I’m horribly frightened of being coerced into something I’m not comfortable with. I’m only going to get to give birth to this baby once. I’m hopelessly nervous that the moments that are important to me will be taken away and I know only too well that I can’t go back and put them right and how long I’ll be dealing with the regret.”
I’m saying this as a mother who has had the hospital experience and who wrote the birth plan as long as your arm a month later, perfectly petrified of repeating the experience one day. Happy to report I came to my senses, realised it would probably be laughed at or pinned to a dartboard or something, and booked a home birth second time round. (Which was fantastic, by the way. No nurses laughing at me behind my back was just ONE of the many benefits.)
Seriously. People are SCARED of you. You see this as something funny? This is the kind of thing that makes people convinced that the hospital staff are compassionless and burnt out and not to be touched with a ten foot pole.
I’ve done the whole labour and birth thing. Something I found out in the process, this “pain of childbirth” people go in about. It’s a flippin’ cake walk next to the fear of not being listened to and being de-humanised. That is what scares the bejesus out of me when I think about the possibility of another baby in the future.
I agree. I started out in my first pregnancy planning out a long and detailed birth plan because I was concerned about whether my wishes would be respected. I had midwives, and by the time I got near labour I realized I trusted them and knew they knew my desires, and that except in cases of emergency my wishes would be respected. They asked if I had one, but I never did give them one (except through verbal discussions). I had my daughter at home, after a long labour that “stalled” more than once, and she was born posterior and chin up. Never any distress though. I’m grateful I never went into the hospital as a posterior baby is practically an automatic csection here, birth plan or not. Had I not trusted my providers so much, you bet I would still have had a birth plan, but they aren’t nearly as necessary when a woman trusts her care providers to respect her wishes. It’s ignorant to assume that women with birth plans expect them to be upheld at all costs, regardless of how the baby is doing. What most do want, is to be informed about any and all interventions that may be deemed necessary.
By Caring Doula
First let me be clear, I have a great respect for medical practitioners and hope to learn from them, but I also believe that they should have mutual respect for their patients. That being said, here we go!
I was at a routine OB appointment last Wednesday with an OB I have never met before. I have to “make the rounds” as they say in the office there and meet all of the OBs because I can not choose which one will attend my birth, they all rotate at being on call for Labor and Delivery. So on Wednesday I was meeting the third one, let’s call her Dr. B.
At first when Dr. B entered my room she seemed really caring and nice and she shook my hand. We discussed a few things like the flu shot, and then she asked me if I had any questions. I asked two, the second question being, “Who can I give my birth plan to?”, to which she answered, “You would just give it to the nursing staff at Labor and Delivery, but they think birth plans are bad luck and that if you bring a birth plan that you won’t get the birth you want”.
“THEY think birth plans are BAD LUCK”.
I was in total shock when I heard that, I said out loud to her, more than once actually, “Really? I have NEVER heard of that before”, and the rest of the conversation is a little blurry, but I must have asked her why they believe that, and she just said, “They are superstitious over there, you can just tell your nurse what you want”, and I know I said something back like, “Well I had a birth plan for my daughter’s birth and I had her vaginally without drugs, and having a birth plan is not bad luck for me”. At which point her personality completely changed. She turned totally cold and kind of snappy, rushing through the rest of the appointment and acting really upset, like I had said something to upset HER when she was the one who had just greatly upset ME! She was all fake and weird after that, and I was in total shock and totally freaked out.
I went in the bathroom and cried. I couldn’t believe what she told me and how she acted toward me. I could not help being so appalled that anyone would think having a birth plan was bad luck. At Kaiser where I delivered my daughter in 2010, they gave you a fill in the blank birth plan at practically every visit I went to during my last trimester, and stressed that we should give it to their labor and delivery with our check in papers. Not to mention all of the research I have done about birth and my doula training classes have instilled in me that having a birth plan is the best thing for everyone. I think a lot of care providers believe that when a woman comes in with a birth plan, she is unwilling to change the plan if any complication occurs. Well I am not talking about a non-negotiable contract here, I am talking about MY wishes and plans for MY birth and obviously any birth plan needs to be flexible in case of complications, or you will limit yourself and make things harder since birth can be unpredictable. Even women who are scheduled for C sections can and should have a birth plan with their wishes, saying things like, “If my baby has to be separated from me for any reason, I want my partner to be with our baby the whole time and for them to have skin to skin contact if possible.”
I don’t think anyone has the right to tell any woman that her birth plan is bad luck, and this doctor is discouraging woman from bringing a birth plan to their own births based on a stranger’s superstitions. This is just WRONG! I have been upset over this since it happened, I still can’t believe they think they have the right to call my birth plan bad luck!
When I asked her who to bring a birth plan to, the perfect answer to hear from her would have been, “You should bring it to every visit from now on so each doctor can over look it and discuss any issues with you. After all, your birth is important, and we really care about you and can not say for sure which doctor will attend your birth.”
That would have been great, right?
Also, Dr. B said “Just tell your nurse what you want”. Really, you think I am going to be in a talking mood when I enter the hospital while having excruciating contractions? And if I arrive at the hospital unable to carry on a conversation, than what do I do? Of course in my case my husband, if he is even in his right mind, or my doula could explain our needs and wishes to them, but what about a woman in labor who comes in alone? She is supposed to sit the nurse down and tell her what she wants? From the sound of that statement by DR. B, they don’t care what we want or they would be more prepared for women in that situation.
I have to admit that this doctor has instilled doubt in me about birthing with her facility, because I WILL BRING MY BIRTH PLAN, no matter what anyone else says or thinks. But now I am worried about a bunch of things like whether or not they would actually try to purposefully interfere with my plan so that they can say MY plan was bad luck, and whether bringing a birth plan to their facility is actually bad luck? These are all crazy things to be afraid of, as if birth isn’t scary enough already. Despite my fears, I will not let this change my own beliefs and ideals when it comes to birth.
Thanks a lot Dr. B for the damage you caused me and every other woman you have given this information to, you should be ashamed. I have more doubts now, and I have given birth once before, I have had the birth of my dreams thanks to a fantastic nurse named Heather and all the people supporting me including my husband and sister. How would doctor B’s comments effected me if I was a first time mother who had never birthed a baby before if I have even the slightest doubts now?
One part of me is afraid, and one part of me is saying, “Fuck you bitches, I am going to bring my birth plan to the birth of MY baby, and praying that everything goes right, I am going to rock this birth and have my baby exactly the way I WANT under the circumstances that will be given to me”.
This saying has never rang so true: “Birth is like a box of of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get”, and I never felt so strongly that for this reason, one should always be prepared, have a plan, and be open minded. This means you, you superstitious bitches. Be open to MY birth, MY plan, MY wishes, and I will be open to your suggestions as/if complications arise. I want to learn from you, not be discouraged by you.
An excerpt from the article, click the link to read the entire article at babycenter.com
These powerful substances, found in some antiaging moisturizers, are lauded for helping reduce wrinkles and improve skin tone. Retinoids are a type of vitamin A that speeds up cell division (quickening your skin’s renewal) and prevent skin collagen from breaking down.
But retinoids are one of the skin-care ingredients that experts, including Baumann, recommend that expectant moms stay away from. Some studies have shown that high doses of vitamin A during pregnancy can be harmful to an unborn child. And oral retinoids, such as isotretinoin (Accutane, an acne treatment), are known to cause birth defects.
If you’ve been using a skin cream that contains a retinoid, don’t panic. Retinoids have not been shown to cause problems in their topical form in pregnant women.
“There is no data to show these retinoids ingredients are harmful when used on the skin — doctors are just being extra cautious,” explains Baumann.
On the label:
Retin-A, Renova (tretinoin)
Tazorac and avage (Tazarotene)
Best to avoid
This mild acid is used to treat certain skin disorders, including acne, and you can find it in a number of skin products, such as cleansers and toners. It can penetrate facial oils to get deep into pores and clean out dead skin cells. Salicylic acid is in the aspirin family, so it can also help reduce inflammation or redness. BHA, or beta hydroxy acid, is a form of salicylic acid and is used in some topical exfoliants to reverse signs of aging.
But salicylic acid is another no-no for pregnant women. High doses of the acid in its oral form have been shown in studies to cause birth defects and various pregnancy complications.
Again, doctors are being cautious by recommending that pregnant women avoid the topical use of salicylic acid. Small amounts applied to the skin — such as a salicylic acid-containing toner used once or twice a day — are considered safe, says Johnson.
But the concern is stronger about face and body peels containing salicylic acid. “This kind of ‘soaking’ in the ingredient is similar to taking one or more aspirin when pregnant,” she explains.
“More product used equals more absorption into the bloodstream,” adds Baumann. Always check with your doctor before having a peel treatment. Better yet, she advises, if you must have a peel, have it done professionally at your dermatologist’s office. A dermatologist will know how to do it safely during pregnancy.
On the label:
Beta hydroxy acid
Note: Alpha hydroxy acids, sometimes listed as AHAs, glycolic acid, or lactic acid, are safe.
Best to avoid