-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
TUESDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Women who use synthetic
marijuana during pregnancy can develop symptoms similar to those
associated with eclampsia and preeclampsia, according to a new
Although women with these serious prenatal conditions get better
after delivery, researchers in California pointed out that pregnant
women with a drug problem do not.
Synthetic marijuana, also known as "Spice Gold," is similar to
marijuana, except the easily accessible drug can't be detected with
a standard urine drug test. The researchers also cautioned that the
effects of this unregulated drug, which is sold legally on the
Internet and in herbal stores, are unpredictable.
Dr. Cindy Lee and Dr. Sally Nalesnik, from Kern Medical Center
in Bakersfield, Calif., conducted research involving the case of a
pregnant woman who suffered a seizure and appeared agitated. The
woman, who told doctors she was about 35 weeks pregnant, had no
prenatal care. She also had high blood pressure and protein in her
urine, so she was treated for eclampsia. Since the baby was in
distress and the only cure for this potentially fatal condition is
delivery, doctors performed an emergency cesarean section.
The researchers noted that the baby girl, who was born at 28
weeks gestation, screened negative for drugs. The day after
delivery, however, the woman had not recovered and needed
psychiatric intervention for psychotic behavior.
"This was an interesting yet confusing presentation," Lee said in a news release. "We wanted to report it so in the future if something similar came up, it would be in the literature and physicians could refer to it."
Additional lab work revealed that the woman, who screened
negative for drugs, had very low potassium levels. An anonymous
caller, however, informed her doctors that the woman regularly
smoked Spice Gold.
"This was not a pregnancy problem but a drug problem," Lee said. "Eclampsia is cured with delivery of the baby, but she did not get better after delivery."
The researchers concluded that obstetricians and gynecologists
need to be aware of emerging drugs and consider them when making
diagnoses. "I've been surprised when people tell me what they're
on," Lee said. "If a patient tells me she's on X, Y or Z, I'll
believe it. If she tells me she's not on X, Y or Z, then I know
that may not be true."
The study was to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of
the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in New
Orleans. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse provides more
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