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New study reveals more pregnant women are using marijuana

28 December 2017

They admit that "researchers don't know a lot about what the effects might be" and "the research is in progress", but say "most experts advise pregnant women not to use marijuana", in part because "many of the chemicals in marijuana (in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) can pass through a mother's system to her baby and can negatively affect a baby's health".

The study notes that marijuana is "the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy", adding that use of the drug has been increasing. Meanwhile, pregnant women aged 18 to 24 who smoked weed increased from 9.8% to 19%.

A previous study published in JAMA nearly a year ago showed that the trend isn't limited to the Golden State: Across the country, pregnant women, aged 18 to 44, who reported using cannabis in the previous month had grown from 2.37 percent in 2002 to 3.85 percent in 2014.

Researchers used years of data from more than 279,000 pregnant women who were screened at Kaiser Permanente facilities.

As it stands, using marijuana while pregnant appears to be a gamble.

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In 2018, marijuana will be legally available for recreational use, suggesting that that even more pregnant women may have access to and indulge in it. Numerous chemicals in marijuana, like tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, could pass through a mother's system to her baby. Timing may be important, too; marijuana use in the first month of a pregnancy may increase the likelihood of a very rare birth defect called anencephaly.

California's initiative requires marijuana products to bear labels warning of potential health hazards, including that marijuana use while pregnant or breastfeeding could be harmful.

The number reported in the JAMA paper falls outside the range that's been reported in other studies using self-reported data-between 2 and 5 percent.

California was the fist state in the USA to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. (The percentage of women who tested positive for marijuana use in this paper was quite a bit higher than those who had just said they did.) Presumably, women may have been reticent to report smoking marijuana if they actually did because they might not want to seem like they've done something that people believe might put their child at risk.

New study reveals more pregnant women are using marijuana