Pregnant Women Are Using More Marijuana — Is That a Bad Thing?

Dec 27, 2017 at 11:56 a.m. ET
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Even if you've never been pregnant, you're probably well aware that gestating a human baby in your body for the better part of a year can be stressful and uncomfortable. Pregnant people handle this in different ways — like trying to rest more or drinking herbal tea — and thanks to new research, we now know that using marijuana is gaining popularity too.

Researchers at Columbia University analyzed data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2002 through 2014 and found a 62 percent increase in pregnant people who reported using marijuana in the 30 days prior to taking the survey over that 12-year period. Specifically, 3.9 percent of pregnant people surveyed had used cannabis in the previous month compared to 7.6 percent of reproductive-age women who weren't pregnant.

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If this increase sounds high, it follows national trends among nonpregnant people. In fact, between 2001 and 2013, marijuana use among adults in the U.S. more than doubled.

So we know marijuana use has gone up among pregnant people, but how does this affect the health of the resulting babies?

According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we don't really know. The findings from previous research have been mixed, with human and animal studies indicating prenatal marijuana exposure may be associated with poor health outcomes for babies, including low birth weight and impaired neurodevelopment.

More: Here's What You Need to Know About Marijuana & Your Sexual & Reproductive Health

It should go without saying pregnant people shouldn't smoke marijuana or be around those who do according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The organization also recommends that OB-GYNs shouldn't prescribe or suggest the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes during preconception, pregnancy and lactation. It also points to the lack of research on the effects of marijuana use on lactation and breastfeeding, so it's best to opt for alternative therapies that are proven safe for use at that time.

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