A PREGNANT mum smokes cannabis every day to beat morning sickness, despite experts warning her baby is at risk of being born prematurely and has a higher chance of suffering cot death.
Sammy Warnes, 30, suffers from hyperemesis gravidarum, severe morning sickness including chronic nausea and vomiting, which is the same illness Kate Middleton endured throughout all three of her pregnancies.
But Sun medic Dr Carol Cooper warns Sammy should stop - explaining that while research into the impact of smoking marijuana while pregnant is limited, the dangers include increased risk of stillbirth, low birth weight and premature birth.
Dr Cooper told Fabulous Digital: "Cannabis has long been recognised to help nausea in patients having chemotherapy, by working directly on the vomiting centres in the brain. It also works on the gut to slow it down.
"So perhaps it's no surprise to find many mums-to-be turning to marijuana for morning sickness.
"There's very little research into its use in pregnancy, but studies so far suggest that smoking weed can trigger premature labour and interfere with the baby's growth in the womb. It may also raise the risk of cot death."
"Research using rats shows that marijuana affects the kind of proteins and fats that make up the brain, and that could have serious far-reaching results on their offspring, especially their learning and memory."
"At the moment, I think it's unwise for any pregnant woman to use marijuana.
"We just don't know enough about the risks to the baby."
Current NHS guidelines on smoking tobacco while pregnant warn the risks are very real.
Babies exposed to tobacco smoke in their mum's womb are on average 8oz lighter than other newborns.
"They are more likely to have problems keeping warm and are more likely to get infections," the NHS advises.
On top of this Sammy is risking legal problems - police can issue a warning or on-the-spot fine of £90 if you're found with cannabis.
Sammy suffered terrible morning sickness with her daughter Arabella, now three, and was given strong medication to help.
Hyperemesis gravidarum differs from standard morning sickness because the nausea and vomiting is prolonged and so severe - some women are sick 50 times a day and Kate Middleton was even hospitalised.
Sufferers may lose weight and become dehydrated because they are sick so often, and can experience low blood pressure when standing up too.
Unlike normal morning sickness it doesn't always gets better by 16 to 20 weeks.
Mums with hyperemesis gravidarum can be treated with anti-sickness drugs, vitamins B6 and B12 and steroids, or a combination of these, none of which have any ill effects on the baby.
However, some may be too nervous to take medication - or be ill-informed about new treatments - for morning sickness.
In part this is due to the Thalidomide crisis in the 60s, which saw babies born with birth defects after their mums took the drug during pregnancy.
What is hyperemesis gravidarum?
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is much worse than the normal morning sickness experienced during pregnancy.
Unlike regular pregnancy sickness, HG may not get better by 14 weeks and for many needs hospital treatment.
Sufferers may be sick numerous times each day and be unable to keep food or drink down, which can massively impact their everyday life.
- prolonged nausea and vomiting with some women being sick up to 50 times a day
- weight loss
- dehydration – sufferers can’t keep fluids down, if you're drinking less than 500ml a day, the NHS recommends you seek help
- ketosis – a serious condition that results in the build-up of acidic chemicals in the blood and urine
- low blood pressure (hypotension) when standing
Sickness may not clear up completely until the baby is born, although some symptoms can improve at around 20 weeks.
HG is unlikely to harm your baby, but can cause you to lose weight during your pregnancy, so there is an increase in chance your baby will weigh less than expected.
If you are experiencing severe nausea and vomiting you should see a GP or midwife before you start suffering from dehydration and weight loss.
Sammy claims the medication she was given posed a risk to her unborn baby and also didn't work well.
After weeks of sleepless nights and chronic vomiting, Sammy, from Leeds, researched herself and found a puff or two on a joint every day helped.
Her symptoms disappeared totally at 25 weeks, and Arabella was born fit and healthy.
After falling pregnant again her sickness returned but was "10 times worse", and so Sammy is once again ignoring medical advice.
"I've had no choice but to take it. It worked so well last time," she said.
"This time the sickness was 10 times worse and I was considering having a termination."
The NHS says between one and three in every 100 pregnant women suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, with The Telegraph previously quoting a study which suggested 1,000 women a year terminate pregnancies because of it.
Why is smoking cannabis bad for babies?
A major report into cannabis has been carried out by the the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the US news website Vox explained.
Experts reviewed studies between 1999 and 2016 and found cannabis could help relieve symptoms for chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and cancer patients.
But there were links between smoking cannabis and developing psychosis and schizophrenia.
Plus people can suffer respiratory problems when smoking it.
The report looked into smoking cannabis and pregnancy and there were suggestions babies exposed to cannabis in pregnancy had lower birth weights.
“But what we couldn’t say is whether that’s a direct effect of marijuana or of smoking,” explained Marie Clare McCormick, a professor of maternal and child health at Harvard and chair of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee that put out the report told Vox.
“Clearly you can say, ‘Don’t smoke during pregnancy no matter what you’re smoking.’
"But for the remainder, it’s the precautionary principle: Until we know more you probably shouldn’t do it.”
Sammy, who spends £10 every three weeks on cannabis and gets her supply from the internet, is unconcerned about the risks with her habit.
The former catering worker is due in May next year and told Fabulous Digital: "All the warnings are to do with smoking tobacco.
There's very little research into its use in pregnancy, but studies so far suggest that smoking weed can trigger premature labour and interfere with the baby's growth in the womb.Dr Carol Cooper
"The thing is the prescription drugs [for sickness] do more damage.
"There's risk of birth defects so they're quite scary to be fair.
"One of them was making my body do random movements. That stuff panics me.
"[Cannabis has] actually saved both me and my baby's life.
"It got to the point where I was seriously considering an abortion.
"This time round has been 10 times worse.
"I've had to give my job up because I just couldn't do anything.
"With just two puffs a day I'm able to be a parent to my daughter.
"I can do normal things like go to the shops, take her to nursery and just be a mum.
"Beforehand I was just being sick or waiting around to be sick. I was just knackered.
"People will say 'Oh she just wants to be a druggie' but it's not that at all.
I'm not abusing it or trying to get blazed.Sammy Warnes
"I don't get high off it. It's a couple of puffs with a minimum bit of baccy.
"There needs to be a conversation about this so other women know there's something out there that can help them.
"Unless you've been through it you don't really get it."
When Sammy began suffering severe morning sickness while pregnant in 2015, doctors prescribed her Domperidone - a drug used to relieve nausea and vomiting - but she claims the symptoms only temporarily disappeared for 20 minutes.
She decided to Google any alternative ways to combat her illness when she was 10 weeks along as she was being sick 10 times a day.
Sammy was hospitalised and on a drip at around 14 weeks due to dehydration, with the mum was so ill she couldn't eat or drink.
She discovered several forums suggesting cannabis as a solution, she claims.
Sammy, who had experimented with the drug as a teenager, said: "I wanted to see if there were any old-wives tales or old fashioned tips that would help me out.
"Then I found quite a few forums on women using cannabis to stop their morning sickness.
"I was so desperate I thought I'd give it a go.
"I was a bit nervous when I first did it but I was reassured by all the things I read on the forums.
What's the law on possessing cannabis?
Earlier this month two cannabis-based medicines were cleared for NHS use for the first time.
Epidyolex is recommended for two rare types of epilepsy while the spray Sativex can ease muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.
But regulators say there is not enough evidence to approve cannabis-based drugs for chronic pain.
Campaigners have welcomed the go-ahead but said thousands of other people who could benefit from cannabis-based medicines were left in limbo.
Millie Hinton, from the group End Our Pain, said it had been “a massive missed opportunity”.
Last year, it was made legal for doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis.
However, many have been reluctant to do so, citing a lack of guidance and costing concerns.
It has forced some families to buy the drugs abroad and bring them into the UK illegally.
You can get up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both for possessing cannabis.
"As soon as I took it the symptoms just went away.
"It wasn't just a case of me feeling sick the whole time. I couldn't do anything at all.
"It was amazing - it helped me get out of bed in the morning.
"It literally worked straight away. I just couldn't believe it.
"I didn't tell my midwife as to be honest I didn't want to cause unnecessary stress.
"It was to medicate my body, not to get stoned. I'm not abusing it or trying to get blazed."
Sammy claims her first daughter, who arrived in June 2016, weighing a healthy 6lb 2oz, is healthy both mentally and physically.
I didn't tell my midwife as to be honest I didn't want to cause unnecessary stressSammy Warnes
After discovering she was pregnant again in August this year, she hoped her chronic morning sickness wouldn't make a return.
But six weeks in her hyperemesis gravidarum came back and she was signed off work.
Sammy said: "I was put on the tablets again but the same thing happened.
"The sickness would disappear for about 20 minutes but then I'll be back to hugging the toilet all day."
Despite the taboo surrounding smoking cannabis, Sammy said she has both the support of her friends and family.
She said: "I smoke it in my back garden in the mornings.
"My family are very anti-drugs and when I told them they initially kicked off. But when I told them the full story, they were like, 'If it works for you that's fine.'
"My partner is really supportive. He noticed the difference straight away. My half-siblings are supportive too. They have family members who use it to treat cerebral palsy and cancer.
"I've never told a midwife because I know I'll get stick."
"Now I can do a food shop, do the house cleaning and take my little girl to nursery," she said. "When you can't do that and you have that extreme sickness it's just awful.
"The tablets have side effects of birth defects. That is known. My little girl is fit and healthy and is getting along fine at nursery.
"I'd rather just take a couple of puffs of weed. There are thousands of women doing the same.
"But there isn't a conversation about it because they are scared their midwives will grass them up to social services.
"I want to speak out because there is something out there which can help other women.
"There's chat about cannabis being used as medicine for chronic illnesses.
"I just want to help and tell other women."
While Sammy may want to spread her message, the warning from doctors is clear - smoking during pregnancy puts babies in grave danger and substantially increases the risk of stillbirth and cot death.
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