More pregnant women are turning to pot to ease such pregnancy symptoms as morning sickness and anxiety, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA.
For the seven-year study, nearly 300,000 California-based mothers-to-be, ages 12 and older, completed questionnaires about their marijuana use and took toxicology tests during their prenatal care visits.
The results: Marijuana use climbed from 4.2% to 7.1% from 2009 through 2016. And while marijuana use increased in every age group, the sharpest spike was among women younger than age 24.
Here’s a closer look at some of the findings:
- In women younger than 18, pot use increased from 12.5 percent to almost 22 percent.
- In women ages 18 to 24, marijuana use jumped from almost 10 percent to 19 percent.
- In women ages 25 to 34, pot use rose from about 3 percent to about 5 percent.
- In women older than 34, marijuana use increased from about 2 percent to about 3 percent.
Why More Pregnant Women Are Using Pot
Experts point to both legalization and increasing social acceptance as possible explanations.
“Think about marijuana use from their perspective, especially in Northern California,” Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, professor and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern’s William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, told CNN.com.
California legalized medical marijuana use in 1996, and on January 1, 2018, legalized recreational marijuana. “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,” Dr. Horsager-Boehrer continued.
Why Pot and Pregnancy Don’t Mix
Legal or not, using pot during pregnancy is risky business. Many of the chemicals in marijuana, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), could pass through a mother’s system to her baby. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that “women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue marijuana use” and “to discontinue use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in favor of an alternative therapy.”
Research on the effects of marijuana use on developing babies is still ongoing and many women who use marijuana may also smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use other street drugs.
According to March of Dimes, studies have linked the following health effects with marijuana use during pregnancy:
- Premature birth, or birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Low birth weight.
- Anencephaly. This is a severe neural tube defect that causes missing major parts of the brain, skull and scalp. Babies with this condition do not survive long after birth.
- Anemia, or lack of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen to the baby’s body.
- Problems with brain development.
- Stillbirth, or when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In addition, exposure to marijuana during pregnancy may cause problems for the baby after birth, including:
- Withdrawal symptoms, like tremors (shakes) or long periods of crying.
- Problems with sleeping.
- Problems with behavior, memory, learning, problem solving, depression and paying attention.
Getting Help for Marijuana Abuse
If you use marijuana and are pregnant or considering pregnancy, we can work together to create a plan to help you live a happy and drug-free lifestyle. To learn more about our programs and services, call today: 305-595-7378.