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More Pregnant Women Are Smoking Weed

New research shows young pregnant women in California are increasingly using marijuana to calm anxiety and morning sickness.
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From 2009 through 2016, an increasing number of pregnant women were apparently trading ginger ale for weed to alleviate their morning pukes. Per a new report from The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), marijuana use among pregnant women increased from 4 to 7 percent overall, while rates of those age 18 or younger and people 18 to 24 who screened positive for marijuana use in 2016 rose to 22 percent and 19 percent, respectively.


The study was comprised of pregnant women within The Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) health care system—which serves about 4 million patients—who completed a self-administered questionnaire on their prenatal marijuana use. These women also took a cannabis toxicology test, with 58 percent completing the questionnaire and toxicology test at the same time and 87 percent taking the test within two weeks of completing the questionnaire; 100 percent of all of these tests were done within eight weeks of the questionnaire.

Although the greatest increases in marijuana use were among pregnant women younger than 18 (from 9.8 percent to 19 percent) and 18- to 24-year-olds (an almost 10 percent increase), use rose overall among all ages of pregnant women. Pregnant pot-users ages 25 to 34 rose from 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent, while those older than 34 years old increased from 2.1 percent to 3.3 percent.

The study also noted the race, ethnicity, and income of each woman. Thirty-six percent of pregnant women who used marijuana were white, 27.9 percent Latina, 16.6 percent Asian, 5.9 percent black, and 13.6 percent identified as other. The average household income was $70,677 (or in the variability range of $51,645 and $92,917).

As previously mentioned, experts believe women may be using marijuana to curb morning sickness or anxiety. This may seem like a more desirable alternative to barfing your breakfast out in a toilet, but initial evidence noted in the study from a previous January 2017 report, The Risks of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy, suggests marijuana use may impair fetal growth and neurodevelopment.

The report published alongside a study from Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reflected this potential train of thought while acknowledging its pain-relieving qualities. While the true effects of marijuana on a pregnant woman’s unborn kiddo isn’t known, 79 percent of 785 pregnant women surveyed between 2007 and 2012 reported that they thought there was “little to no harm” in the prenatal use of marijuana.

The legalization of marijuana is also a factor in this use increase among pregnant women. In California, medical marijuana use was legalized in 1996, and with recreational marijuana becoming legally available in the state on January 1, 2018, more pregnant women may turn to smoking pot or baking edibles to ease their prenatal issues.

“Continued monitoring of trends, exposure timing, and offspring outcomes is important as marijuana potency rises in an increasingly permissive landscape,” the study noted.

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