As states become more permissive about cannabis use, public perceptions about the dangers of cannabis are softening, and some studies show a trend towards more cannabis use among the general population. However, there is still uncertainty about impacts from adolescent use as well as effects from use around the time of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that neither pregnant or breastfeeding women use cannabis recreationally, and to seek alternative treatments for medicinal use.
The CIPHERS Project focuses on cannabis use by men, and how it might impact their future children by altering the epigenetics of their sperm. But our outreach team has also heard concerns from colleagues at the Duke Medical Center about pregnant and breastfeeding women using cannabis, and the potential impacts to fetuses and newborns. With this in mind, we have been collaborating with Duke Family Medicine to create educational materials for pregnant couples, and to educate physicians and nurses on our research and some of the concerns with cannabis use around the time of pregnancy.
On June 18, the CIPHERS Project PI, Dr. Susan Murphy spoke to Duke Family Medicine resident physicians about the project's findings so far, future avenues of research, what it could mean for a baby's health, and how to begin to counsel couples on a male partner's cannabis use prior to conception.
Next, Donna Tuccero, MD in Family Medicine and Community Health, spoke to the residents about the health impacts associated with maternal use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. She addressed some of the differences between alcohol and cannabis, including that the "pump and dump" method, which can limit a newborn's exposure to alcohol during breastfeeding, won't work for cannabis.
These presentations were also a chance for the outreach team to get a sense of if/how medical professionals - particularly those who work around pregnancy - talk to their patients about cannabis use. We asked them to complete a short survey where they could give feedback on the talks and our tri-fold educational brochure (available below), which was designed for physicians or nurses to use while talking with their patients about cannabis use and pregnancy.
The feedback we received will help us improve our materials and the messages about the CIPHERS Project. We plan to continue our collaborations with the medical community, and beyond!