In Colorado, as in many other states, use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal. Marijuana provides relief for numerous chronic illnesses, including lupus, fibromyalgia, and Crohn’s Disease. During pregnancy, the chronic pain and nausea associated with these illnesses can dramatically increase. Marijuana can often provide relief, even at micro-dose levels.

Many drugs are prescribed to pregnant women in order to help them cope with the challenges of pregnancy, especially when those challenges are compounded by a chronic illness.

However, if a mother and her prenatal care provider choose to use marijuana as a treatment, she could be at risk of losing custody of her child following birth due to the prevalence of drug testing in hospitals. While other medications are not subject to such testing (such as Zofran, which might be prescribed for similar uses, and is, in fact, believed to cause birth defects), testing positive for marijuana could result in a finding of child endangerment. This is possible even if the mother is merely seeking relief from a condition that could threaten her own health and that of her child.

Anna’s story

After receiving negative commentary from prenatal care providers “Anna” sought other options for care. Elephant Circle assisted her in securing a home-birth midwife supportive of her medical marijuana use. She had chronic nausea and had been using small doses of marijuana to treat it, thus increasing her ability to stay at a healthy pregnancy weight. She had been preparing for a home birth, but needed to transfer to the hospital due to complications. The combination of being a transfer from a home birth plan to the hospital, combined with her status as a Medicaid client, increased the risk that she and her baby would be tested for drugs.

In the hospital, doctors attempted to test her baby for drugs right away via a urine sample. The test caused her baby to stop urinating altogether, complications arose and other interventions had to occur to ensure the health of the baby.

Elephant Circle staff was able to offer coaching on interpersonal relationships and advise her to a full term pregnancy of a healthy newborn.