More American women are using marijuana during pregnancy than in previous years to treat nausea and morning sickness, a new study suggests.
The data raise potentially serious medical concerns because of previous studies indicating that babies who were exposed to marijuana are more likely to have anemia, have a lower birth weight, and be placed in neonatal intensive care than babies of mothers who did not. they used marijuana.
According to the study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 4 percent of pregnant women ages 18 to 44 in 2014 reported using marijuana in the past month, compared with 2.4 percent. cent in 2002.
“Some sources on the Internet tout marijuana as a solution to nausea that commonly accompanies pregnancy,” said Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in an editorial posted online with the study. However, she said, “physicians should be aware of the risks involved and err on the side of caution in not recommending the drug to pregnant patients.”
Some sources on the Internet tout marijuana as a solution to the nausea that commonly accompanies pregnancy.
Some data suggests that pregnant women turn to marijuana specifically during the first trimester of pregnancy, the period that presents the greatest risks of drug exposure to the fetus, Volkow wrote.
Although the influence of marijuana on human brain development is not entirely clear, studies have shown links between prenatal marijuana exposure and impaired functions such as impulse control, visual memory, and attention during the school years. . An ongoing study also found an association between prenatal marijuana exposure and restricted fetal growth during pregnancy, as well as increased frontal cortex thickness among school-age children.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant or nursing women, and women considering pregnancy, be screened for and discouraged from using marijuana and other substances.
The study published Monday analyzed data on women ages 18 to 44 from the Annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2002 to 2014. The researchers evaluated data on 200,510 women of reproductive age, including 10,587 pregnant women.
Among pregnant women, the prevalence of past month marijuana use increased 62 percent between 2002 and 2014. Use was most prevalent among women ages 18 to 25, indicating that younger women run a higher risk. Recent use among non-pregnant women also increased, from about 6 percent in 2002 to 9 percent in 2014, the researchers reported.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug during pregnancy, Volkow wrote, and a study from Hawaii suggested that pregnant women with severe nausea are more likely to use marijuana than other pregnant women.
Despite medical recommendations, online forums and articles laud the pain-relieving benefits of marijuana use during pregnancy, particularly for treating hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe type of morning sickness that involves persistent nausea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration, weight loss and electrolyte imbalances.
To date, 29 states and Washington, DC have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana. Nausea is a medically approved reason for using marijuana in all states where medical use is legal. Although no state specifically lists pregnancy-related conditions as an indication for the drug, none of them prohibit or include warnings about the potential harms of marijuana, Volkow wrote.
The number of pregnant women who use marijuana (less than 4 percent, according to the study) is not high. However, the study authors wrote, “increases over time and potential adverse consequences of prenatal marijuana exposure suggest that further monitoring and investigation is warranted.”