Pot-smoking on the rise among U.S. pregnant women

Frederick Owens
December 28, 2017

According to the research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "the prevalence of self-reported, past-month marijuana use among U.S. adult pregnant women increased from 2.4 percent to 3.9 percent".

From 2009 to 2016, marijuana use among pregnant women increased from 4.2 percent to 7.1 percent in Kaiser Permanente's Northern California healthcare system. In 2016, almost a quarter of pregnant teenagers had used marijuana, as had about one in five women between 18 and 24.

On the survey, which the women completed early in their pregnancy, were questions about marijuana use.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy, and its use is increasing, according to a letter published Tuesday in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).

California became the first US state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Numerous chemicals in marijuana, like tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, could pass through a mother's system to her baby.

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In October, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which discourages marijuana use among pregnant or breastfeeding women, said that prenatal marijuana use could cause harm to an infant's brain development and function.

The Kaiser Permanente researchers analyzed medical records from more than 30,000 pregnant women in its insurance network in California. "The impacts of prenatal marijuana use haven't been very well studied", Young-Wolff said.

Young and Goler did not condone the consumption of marijuana during pregnancy. Last year, 5.1 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 34 years old reported to using marijuana while pregnant, up from 3.4 percent in 2009.

According to the CDC, doctors caution that marijuana's effects on a fetus are not clear but it could include low birth weight and developmental problems. "So I think the idea that use is rising is just because of the greater legal exposure to marijuana that women have today versus 20 years ago".

Many women may not understand the potential risk, however. "It does vary quite a bit, which makes it tricky", Young-Wolff said. However, she added, "there are many other ways to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy".

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