A History of Cannabis and Women’s Health
Cannabis consumption to relieve period-related pain dates back to the nineteenth century. Although there was limited research on the effects of cannabis during menstruation, pregnancy and active labour, western physicians at the time were highly keen on prescribing them to their patients.
Cannabis usage among women became popular following the reigning Queen Victoria, who reportedly had wicked menstrual cramps. Interestingly during this era, Western doctors had travelled to Indian subcontinent to pick up centuries-old cannabis folk remedies.
Queen Victoria’s doctor Sir John Russell Reynolds had prescribed the Queen with cannabis tinctures to relieve period pains. Sir John Russell Reynold had published “Indian hemp…is of great service in cases of simple spasmodic dysmenorrhoea”.
Along with Sir John Russell Reynold doing extensive research on Cannabis, menstrual cramps and dementia, an American physician named T.L. Wright had found that cannabis helped a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum – a severe case of vomiting during pregnancy – which could endanger both mother and the fetus.
Putting things into perspective, Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton had recently suffered with this, during her pregnancy. Dr. Wright had published in 1862 stating, “I found the vomiting completely arrested by cannabis indica, given in repeated doses of three grains every four hours, until several doses were taken.”
Cannabis and Being a Mother
Mommy needs a joint just as much as mommy needs a glass of wine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that middle-aged parents are more likely to use cannabis than their teen children.
An article aimed to eliminate the stigma around cannabis usage while parenting cited a Californian woman named, aged 30 – a mother of four – who often gets together with other moms for a play date and shares herbal refreshments while the kids play about.
She believes smoking cannabis while parenting is totally acceptable. She says that cannabis helps her with pain and depression, anxiety and boosts productivity.
As Cannabis gradually becomes legal across the globe, more and more parents are open minded about having conversations about cannabis and pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting.
Cannabis users who are mothers are often drawn to the plant because of its reputation for combating nausea and depression.
Cannabis products such as drops, drinks, and tinctures with very low levels of THC are also popular in the parent circles. For example, Momma Canna sells cannabidiol (CBD) tinctures – a cannabinoid associated with inducing relaxation and alleviating insomnia – can be a way to relieve pain and inflammation. In fact, Momma Canna has perfected their products to provide relief without any harmful or synthetic ingredients.
In one study, breast milk was tested from mothers who consumed cannabis, 2-5 months postpartum and during nursing. Delta-9-THC was transferred into mother’s milk such that an exclusively breastfeeding infant ingests an estimated 2.5% of the maternal dose.
If the concentration is this low, for some mothers this might make things less concerning. In fact cannabis might have a positive effect for those suffering from postpartum depression. “When crippling postpartum PTSD set in, I knew I had to do something. I chose to use cannabis—despite breastfeeding—and it saved me” – Annie Thomas.
Can Cannabis Affect Your Menstrual cycle?
A definite yes! Dr. Lisa K. Brent (PhD) writes:
“THC suppresses the release of two hormones, GnRH and TRH… preventing these hormones from stimulating the release of prolactin and the gonadotropins, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH)…. The gonadotropins maintain the menstrual cycle by promoting ovarian follicle maturation, stimulating production of the ovarian estrogen and progesterone and inducing ovulation…”
The Uterus and ECS
The uterus is a muscular organ that has its own unique networks of arteries and four kinds of ligaments. A menstrual cycle involves shedding of the inner lining—the endometrium—about every 28 days over 40 years (a.k.a. periods).
The muscle is flexible enough to stretch to accommodate a growing fetus, contract during active labor and then further contract to shrink back down to its original, fist-sized form. Unfortunately, contraction involves pain – a.k.a cramps – assuming a healthy organ without complications.
Cannabinoids act through the endocannabinoid system (ECS) – which consists of 2 types of receptors found throughout the body to regulate a myriad of physiological processes including mood, appetite and immunity.
While the ECS is known to relieve pain, it is also known to impact the female reproductive system where it affects folliculogenesis, oocyte maturation, and ovarian endocrine secretion.
Shorter Luteal Phase
In the Journal of Addiction Medicine, a study of 52 women showed that women who smoked both cannabis and tobacco were more likely to have a short luteal phase.
The luteal phase is the phase that starts the day after ovulation and until the first day of your next period. The study showed that the luteal phase of cannabis users was five-and-half days shorter than non-users.
Increased Menstrual Cycle
Studies showing the effects of cannabis to the women’s reproductive system dates way back (a few decades). Lisa K. Brents, Ph.D., reviewed this in depth in a 2016 issue of the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. Frequent cannabis users have a slightly elevated rate of menstrual cycles where you don’t ovulate and are at higher risk for decreased fertility.
She also showed that cannabis users could have a longer follicular phase causing delayed ovulation and a shorter luteal phase (shorter than 11 days) – supporting the claim mentioned above.[Disclaimer] Research about cannabis and menstrual cycles is still evolving and more studies need to be done.
Cannabis and Parenting – Positive Views
Although in recent western medicine, medical professionals don’t recommend pregnant or nursing mothers to use cannabis products, yet cannabis use for everyday stresses and pains is growing everyday.
As moms are now ditching their cabernet for vape pens, sublingual sprays and CBD tinctures, it’s no surprise the pot industry is only booming by creating products designed for gentle highs and relaxation. Women have the option to reach out for support and find solutions in all types of Cannabis products.
Do you use Cannabis for cramps, menstruation or other monthly stresses? Comment below!