New research has found a link between cannabis use while pregnant and autism, but proponents of the plant say there are many benefits to using cannabis oils during and after pregnancy.
According to a report by Daniel Corsi of Ottawa Hospital in Ontario, Canada and other authors, there is a 50% higher likelihood that a child exposed to cannabis in the womb would develop autism spectrum disorder.
The research looked at all live births in Ontario between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2012 and linked pregnancy and birth data to provincial health administrative databases to determine child neuro-developmental outcomes.
“We find an association between maternal cannabis use in pregnancy and the incidence of autism spectrum disorder in the offspring. The incidence of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis was 4.00 per 1 000 person-years among children with exposure, compared to 2.42 among unexposed children,” says the report.
This means four cases could be expected for every 1,000 people observed for one year.
In addition, chances of intellectual disability and learning disorders are also higher among babies born of mothers who use cannabis during pregnancy, although “less statistically robust”.
“We emphasise a cautious interpretation of these findings given the likelihood of residual confounding,” said the authors.
Smarter, calmer babies through weed?
Hemp oil in two glass jars and sauceboat with grain in the bag, leaves and stalks of cannabis, a spoon with flour on the background of wooden boards
However, cannabis health practitioner at Abis Inc, Mirishin Schutte, argues that the use of cannabis during pregnancy and throughout breastfeeding yielded more positive results for both the mother and the newborn.
She said babies of pregnant mothers she has treated with a concoction of personalised strains of cannabis oil tended to be calmer and showed no symptoms of colic.
“When the little ones are born, they usually break out in a rash in the face and arms, but those babies don’t have that. There are no allergic reactions and they latch to moms quicker. They are much more intelligent and patient and they don’t go through the ‘terrible twos’ because they are able to communicate their feelings,” said Schutte.
She claims mothers also produce breast milk for much longer and do not experience post-natal depression.
Schutte would not, however, recommend smoking a joint during pregnancy, as her treatment involves different strains of the plant and a combination of both the non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) and the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) components of the plant.
“I wouldn’t recommend smoking anything when pregnant. A lot of ladies who suffered from extreme morning sickness, I would give them a liquid through a vape pen. Cannabis helps with nausea,” said Schutte.
A 1994 study by scientist and cannabis researcher Melanie Dreher found that infants who were exposed to cannabis showed better physiological stability and had better reflexes.
“There were no significant differences between exposed and non-exposed neonates on day 3. At 1 month, the exposed neonates showed better physiological stability and required less examiner facilitation to reach organised states. The neonates of heavy-marijuana-using mothers had better scores on automatic stability, quality of alertness, irritability, and self-regulation and were judged to be more rewarding for caregivers,” Dreher reported in the study.
Treating autistic children with cannabis
Hemp oil, medical marijuana products including cannabis leaf, cbd and hash oil, alternative medicine.
Despite the study finding a link between cannabis use during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorders, the plant can also apparently be used to treat autism in children.
Tania Swart noticed her baby boy Jessie regressing as he grew older to a point where he went completely mute by the age of two.
“I had a non-responsive boy. He went through a season of severe insomnia where he would sleep for three hours. We got therapy for him and also found out he has silent epilepsy,” Swart said.
After speaking to a friend a year later, she was referred to Schutte’s organisation for cannabis treatment on her son.
As a Christian woman and a father-in-law who was a pastor though, she questioned giving cannabis to a three-year-old.
“I started doing research of my own and Mirishin [Schutte] suggested trying different strains of cannabis. Within a week, my child started talking for the first time in his life.”
“I used to play educational programmes on YouTube for him, as background noise. When he was talking, he was saying out numbers. Within three months, he knew all of the alphabets.”
“What the oil did was it released Jessie enough for his brain to start focussing again. I would drive around with him and show him that this was a stop sign, and he would say ‘No. Octagon.’ He was only three!” an emotional Swart said.
She has stopped using the treatment for a year, but is considering starting it again soon as her son, who is now six-years-old, has showed symptoms of regressing.
Though the treatment did not cure her son, Swart was elated to hear her son’s voice for the first time.
“My son is tall. But hearing this big boy with a little squeaky voice is the cutest thing on earth.”
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