Why I Treated My Hyperemesis Gravidarum With Marijuana

by Kristina Hammer
Originally Published: 
Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Catalin205 / iStock

My husband and I were rejoicing over the end of our baby-rearing days when we realized we were going to need more living space. The shoebox-sized house we lived in was perfect for three toddlers, but not for the school-aged kids they had grown into. As we got into the car to look at houses, I felt excited to check out which one would hold the next chapter of my life’s story.

My enthusiasm dampened when an odd, yet familiar, feeling washed over me. My skin became clammy and feverish all at once. I felt fuzzy-headed and off-balance. My mouth fiercely salivated, and my stomach churned into a queasy pit. The back of my mind recognized this sick feeling instantly, yet my consciousnesses fought hard against the truth.

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There was just no way! It was scientifically impossible! 99.99999% unlikely, at least. Oh! Shit! I guess there really was a possibility. I was pregnant. I had somehow conceived while on my third year of using the Depo-Provera shot.

There was no mistaking the feeling of that one-of-a-kind sickness when it hit. With each of my pregnancies, the morning sickness had come to be a little more intense. It was one of the smaller factors in taking precautions to keep from expanding our family. Now, here I was , facing down a fourth pregnancy like an unprepared Hunger Games tribute from District 12, waiting for Effie to appear with her infamous “May the odds be ever in your favor” line.

The odds were certainly not in my favor, either. Thanks to genetics, I inherited a disorder called degenerative disc disease. Its main purpose is to crumble my vertebrae and, eventually, collapse my spinal column. Bone spurs grow where the cushioning, shock-absorbing discs once were. Thanks to fate, however, I was a resident of the great Great Lakes state—Michigan. As soon as marijuana became a legal option for pain control, I had applied for my license and reaped the benefits. Little good it would do me pregnant, though—there was a slight risk that a very small amount of THC could cross my placenta.

My OB-GYN could only shake his head in shame as I confessed my choice in precautionary measures had failed, miserably. The first thing he did was write my prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea medicine. Then he wrote one for the customary prenatal vitamins and another for new medications to add to my regimen since I could no longer use pot to ease the pain. He wished me luck, hoping as much as I did, that the end of my first trimester would bring an end to the sickness. We both knew he was wishing in vain.

Day by day, the morning sickness intensified and proved its common name to be a down right outlandish lie, or else, I was simply an aberration of nature. Around-the-clock waves of intense nausea would come, bringing me to my knees before the porcelain throne, begging His Highness for mercy. My days became a struggle to balance between searching the internet for every old wive’s tale, myth, concept, hypothesis, and random self-proclaimed goddess of Buddha panacea I could find to ease my suffering.

By my second appointment, I had lost seven pounds—not too uncommon. My doctor upped my dosage of Zofran to the maximum amount. Only three more weeks until my second trimester, and by the majority of all pregnant women ever studied, the morning eternal curse of never-ending sickness should subside.

Alas, it was scientifically proven that I was, in fact, an aberration—a freak of nature. This was more than morning sickness. It was hyperemesis gravidarum.

By my fourth appointment, I had lost 14 pounds in all. Sixteen weeks in and I was still spewing my guts out so often, I was forced to stick with a liquid diet. But even protein shakes and fruit smoothies turned into the bane of my existence, because my body insisted everything that went down had to come back up again. My doctor was getting worried. He pushed my 20-week ultrasound to 18 weeks and ordered a fetal non-stress test and extensive blood work to go along with the typical panels done in that timeframe. The results confirmed his concerns: intrauterine growth restriction, small for gestational age (IUGR/SGA).

With a family at home depending on me to keep things running and three kids to care for, plus no outside help from family or friends, this needed to come to an end—fast. It was time to turn the odds in my favor. There was only one method I knew which hadn’t been used before, a tried and true method for every other ailment to ever make me feel nauseous. Medical marijuana therapy was the only thing standing between me and a long-term stay in the hospital, between life and death for my unborn baby. It was a no-brainer for me, as a mother and long-term believer in the greater good of the often misrepresented plant.

My doctor had to give it a bit of thought however, look up a few things, and check into legalities. With his sideways approval, he gave me the go-ahead to give it a trial run. I had four weeks to gain five pounds or I would be admitted to the maternity ward. He explained I needed to stick with methods which wouldn’t require a prolonged period of oxygen deprival, common with bongs, gravity hits, gas masks, and all the other crazy nonsense Cheech and Chong fans come up with.

So I went home, rolled a joint, and found the first bit of relief I had felt in 20 weeks. My kitchen was no longer viewed as the arena Cornucopia, where the sustenance my body desperately craved could risk my life trying to get to. The smell of food no longer sent me reeling toward the porcelain bowl. The texture of food no longer set off my gag reflex faster than my husband sets off the fire alarm with his lack of culinary skills. I felt hungry, a strange feeling after the past months of nonstop sickness inhibiting my appetite.

I did not want to put my baby at more risk than the persistent nausea controlling my life already had. It only took a few days to find the right balance so I wouldn’t retch each time I caught a whiff of the contents in my refrigerator or spice cabinet. (I had to stash my rack behind closed doors the first week!) I rolled three joints a day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner, smoking tiny hits without holding in the inhale as customary to do for full effects.

Rarely did I need the whole joint to accomplish relief. I chose strains which were low in THC levels and bred for stomach ailments, like White Rhino, Grape Ape, and Sweet Island Skunk. The placenta is like nature’s own built-in Brita filter system, but I was going to help its efforts as much as possible to reduce exposure to the fetus.

The negative impact of marijuana’s former (and still, in some parts) illegality still haunts society. The taboo lingers, shaping people’s perspectives. Many looked down on me when they learned I was using the plant during pregnancy to treat hyperemesis gravidarum. They cited false facts of decades prior, told tall tales of extreme deformities to scare me, and bashed my capabilities as a mother to the children I already had.

What I wouldn’t do is let their shaming affect me or alter my choice. Hiding the truth would be giving in to a shame which wasn’t mine to own. I was educated on the matter, fully informed on the scientific and medical front, and aware of any repercussions which could possibly exist before and after delivery. There were few. Maintaining a healthy pregnancy for my unborn child was all that mattered and the morning sickness had prevented me from winning that battle. Up until now, that is—poor Effie would be left speechless.

Eighteen weeks after the go-ahead to smoke marijuana, I was 28 pounds heavier. It was right around then when my water broke after getting up to help my 3-year-old clean up the pee in her bed. Six hours of labor and an hour of pushing later, my daughter was born, weighing in at a healthy 6 pounds, 3 ounces, measuring 20 ½ inches, and without a single issue related to my marijuana use. I could not have been more proud of my body or that miracle plant as when my daughter was born.

Take that, morning sickness!

My daughter is now a rambunctious, spirited, 4-year-old with a love for life unlike any other, and I can’t help but be thankful for the pot which saved her from the unthinkable. The odds may never have been in my favor, but they certainly were for my miracle baby. No wonder she’s a barefoot hippie at heart.

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