Study shows cannabis use rising among pregnant women

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A new study of pregnant women in Northern California shows more expectant mothers were using marijuana.

The report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 280,000 women between 2009 and 2016 who filled out a questionnaire about their marijuana use and took a cannabis toxicology test at about 8 weeks into their pregnancy.

The researchers found that pot use among the respondents increased from 4.2 percent in 2009 to 7.1 percent in 2016. The report showed all age groups were using more marijuana, but it was especially evident among younger women. For women, in the age group between 18 and 24, marijuana use went from 9.8 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2016.

For teen moms, ages 17 or younger, prenatal pot use soared from 12.5 percent in 2009 to 21.8 percent seven years later.

Dr. Dale Mitchell, who chairs the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla is not surprised by the figures.

“I think society has put some legitimacy behind this drug, just as it did at one time with alcohol and tobacco products,” Mitchell said. He said with more states legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, we are seeing a cultural shift. “As a result, I think society tends to think of it as ‘this must be safe, the government’s behind this idea and there’s some regulation of it’, but the problem is those things we didn’t about in the past like tobacco and alcohol, weren’t known until much later.”

Although there are no studies that show marijuana causes problems in pregnancy, Mitchell said there’s concern about the effects of prenatal cannabis use on the health of the child.

“Some studies suggest slower cognitive development and learning, maybe some changes in visual activity and coordination and I think that would concern any parent, of course,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he would advise his patients to stop using marijuana for six months before conception and during the pregnancy.

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