While prenatal vitamins and folic acid are standard diet additions during pregnancy, a new emerging trend among young mothers-to-be is coming to light. According to recent research published in JAMA, an increasing number of women between the ages of 18 and 24 are consuming marijuana during their pregnancy.
Researchers took to Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, where they looked at a group of 279,457 pregnant women and observed the rates of smoking weed while pregnant. While, across the board, women consumed more marijuana during pregnancy (in the time period of 2012 to 2016, the rate went from 4.2% to 7.1%), the biggest increase came in the youngest age range.
For those mothers-to-be who were under the age of 18, the rate increased from 12.5% to 21.8%, and for those who were between 18 and 24, their rates increased from 9.8% to 19%. For mothers who were a bit older, 24-25 years old, the rate also went up slightly, from 3.4% to 5.1%.
However, the researchers do warn that rates could be much higher since some mothers would be unlikely or unwilling to report their marijuana usage to their doctor.
While many people use marijuana to manage anxiety and pain, expectant mothers report using it to combat morning sickness during the start of their pregnancy.
“As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, some pregnant women have turned to using marijuana to ease nausea or other pregnancy symptoms,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
“However, researchers don’t know a lot about what the effects might be and while the research is in progress, most experts advise pregnant women not to use marijuana.”
The CDC also warns that many chemicals in marijuana “can pass through a mother’s system to her baby and can negatively affect a baby’s health… research shows that using marijuana while pregnant can cause health problems in newborns—including low birth weight. Using marijuana during pregnancy may also increase a baby’s risk of developmental problems.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourages expectant mothers or women who are trying to conceive to “discontinue use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in favor of an alternative therapy for which there are better pregnancy-specific safety data.”
And because of the new data, researchers encourage mothers (of all ages) to speak with their doctor honesty about their marijuana use, and to find other potential alternatives to help cope with the morning sickness and other pregnancy symptoms.