When pregnant, women are usually advised to avoid substances and activities that may cause harm to their or their baby's health, most commonly drinking or smoking. However, according to a new study, since the legalization of medicinal marijuana in California, there’s been quite an increase of pregnant women self-reportedly taking it.
The latest research, published in the Journal of Amercian Medical Association and led by Kelly Young-Wolff, a clinical psychologist from the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, revealed that by the end of the seven-year study period one in 14 women were using marijuana after conceiving.
The study looked at 279,457 pregnant women who were part of the Kaiser Permanente health system between 2009 to 2016. Each completed a survey about their cannabis use and took a toxicology test at their pre-natal check-up eight weeks into their pregnancy.
According to the study, 4.2 percent of the women who were pregnant in 2009 had used marijuana, but by 2016 it had climbed up to 7.1 percent, and it was younger expectant mothers who used more cannabis than older expectant mothers.
These results are higher than a previous study that ran from 2002 to 2014, which also showed an increase in the use of marijuana by pregnant women in the USA, rising from 2.4 percent to 3.9 percent. A limitation of this study, as with many of this nature, is that it relies on the honesty of its participants during the survey. However, this has been partly alleviated by the additional toxicity test carried out on the participant.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 2-5 percent of young pregnant women in America use cannabis, but it rises to 15-28 percent for women who come from poorer backgrounds.
"We were concerned to find that the prevalence of marijuana use in pregnancy is increasing more quickly among younger females, aged 24 and younger, and to see the high prevalence of use in this age group," Young-Wolff told CNN.
Despite the mounting evidence that marijuana can be a good remedy for some cases, such as pain relief, the way that it is consumed – usually combined with rolling tobacco – is definitely not recommended, especially if pregnant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that pregnant women who take cannabis risk development complications due to the chemicals, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, that can be traced and passed on through the mother's system to the fetus.
"There are insufficient data to evaluate the effects of marijuana use on infants during lactation and breastfeeding, and in the absence of such data, marijuana use is discouraged," the ACOG states on its website.
There is, however, evidence that children born from mothers who use cannabis during their pregnancy may have issues that manifest later such as in school, including problem-solving skills, memory and the ability to remain attentive.