CanadaCBDMedical and PharmaceuticalNewsScience and ResearchUSIncreased Marijuana Use Among Pregnant Women Triggers Concerns

More women are using marijuana during pregnancy in the U.S. and that might be causing health issues for their babies, two new studies suggest.
Avatar David JJune 24, 20199 min

More pregnant women are using cannabis in the U.S. and that might be causing health issues for their babies, two new studies suggest. Researchers found the number of women in the U.S. using pot during pregnancy in 2017 was more than double from what it was back in 2002, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The recent study looked at nearly half a million women between the ages of 12 and 44, and researchers say legalization might be part of the reason why more women are using cannabis because they assume that means it’s safe. Another reason for the recent uptick in usage is how a lack of concrete evidence adds to the idea that it’s safe, researchers add.

It’s very appealing to think that a drug that makes us feel great could come with no ill effects.

– Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Some of the key findings of the study are summarized below:

2002 2017
Percent of pregnant women that use cannabis 3.4% 7.0%
Percent of pregnant women that use cannabis (daily) 0.9% 3.4%
Use during the first trimester 1.8% 5.3%
Use during the second trimester 0.6% 2.5%

The growth in numbers isn’t coming from doctor’s recommending the drug either either, as the study says “just 0.5% of pregnant women asked if they were using cannabis at the recommendation of a clinician said they were.” It’s a concerning trend for health professionals because there are currently no studies to support cannabis use during pregnancy, while others show it can be damaging to a developing fetus.

Another study conducted in Canada, and published in the same journal, found when pregnant women used cannabis their babies were more likely to be born early, with a lower weight and to be taken to the neonatal intensive care unit.

Preterm birth is defined as less than 37 weeks out of a full-term 40-week pregnancy and the study found it was 12 per cent higher among cannabis users, compared with 6 per cent among nonusers.

“These risks are concerning because, for example, being born small is related to other complications in newborns and higher rates of certain diseases later in life,” said the author of the Canadian study, Daniel Corsi, an epidemiologist and University of Ottawa professor.

The study compared 652,190 pregnant women who reported to never use cannabis, with 9,427 self-reported users.

Corsi said he thinks many of the women using cannabis are doing so to battle nausea and morning sickness since there was a decline in use after the first trimester.

Risks outweigh the benefits for pregnant women

Pregnancy-related nausea and morning sickness can be extremely hard to deal with, but medical care professionals urge pregnant women to avoid cannabis to treat symptoms until there’s more information and data available.

Even for popular CBD products, a cannabinoid which is not psychoactive like its cousin THC, should be avoided during pregnancy or when a new mother is breastfeeding, physicians say. It may seem harmless, but there is not enough credible research to date to back up the claims for CBD, which can be derived from hemp or cannabis.

The developing brain in unborn children is a fragile thing, experts say. And there is growing research that suggests cannabis shouldn’t be used even at early ages until the brain is fully developed.

This is an important issue not just for pregnant mothers but the industry as well, because if cannabis is misused by the general public, regardless under what circumstances, it only helps those against legalizing it by arming them with proof that the substance can be dangerous. In reality, just like any adult-use substance, it’s not meant to be used in every situation, and for everyone.

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