According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics Reports, more than one in five U.S. births now occur in states where marijuana is legal. That’s triggered a concern among health professionals about the use of marijuana by pregnant women.
Along with the broader availability of marijuana comes the perception that it is a harmless substance, health professionals say. But pregnant women, who may be seeking relief from a variety of ailments, should be aware of the potential health consequences of marijuana use.
To understand how marijuana affects expectant mothers and infants, Ryan Hatoum of UCLA Health spoke with Dr. Leena Nathan, obstetrician-gynecologist at UCLA Health-Westlake Village.
How common is it for pregnant women to use marijuana?
According to a federal report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 4% of the pregnant women surveyed in 2014 reported using marijuana during their pregnancy. The actual number may be higher due to underreporting and the fact that marijuana legalization has broadened since the survey was completed.
In addition, more states are enacting marijuana legislation — including California, where last year voters passed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults. As acceptance of marijuana spreads, more pregnant women may begin using it.
Why do women turn to marijuana during pregnancy?
For many pregnant women using marijuana, the draw is the relief it provides for the typical ailments related to pregnancy.
Some women use marijuana to relax and relieve anxiety during pregnancy. Because pregnancy and planning for a new family member can be a source of stress for expectant mothers, marijuana can be seen as a quick solution.
Pain and nausea are other common reasons for use by pregnant women. I have had a few patients say they used marijuana for morning sickness during the first trimester.
What are the risks?
The prevailing science is that marijuana is detrimental to the fetus.
During pregnancy and before…
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