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More pregnant women are smoking weed to help with their symptoms

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An activist smokes a joint during a protest against the imposing of fines for smoking marijuana by police according to their new code, in Bogota, on August 1, 2017 (RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Young, pregnant women are using marijuana more than ever to help with morning sickness and anxiety, even though doctors still warn that it could cause developmental problems for the baby, CNN reports.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association published Tuesday showed that marijuana use increased the most in pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 24. The study surveyed expecting mothers in California.

Digging into the numbers

  • Marijuana use among pregnant women in California rose from 4.2 percent to 7.1 percent from 2009 through 2016.
  • Use climbed from 12.5 percent to 21.8 percent among pregnant teens younger than 18, and from 9.8 percent to 19 percent for those 18 to 24.
  • Across the U.S., marijuana use among pregnant women aged 18-44 rose from 2.37 percent to 3.85 percent from 2002 to 2014.

Why the increase?

In California, medical marijuana was legalized in 1996, so young women of today who grew up there may view marijuana as more of a legitimate medical therapy rather than an illegal drug.

Also, pregnancy in adolescents has been linked to increases in drinking and marijuana use, according to CNN.

“The paper is not surprising, and the findings of a rise in marijuana use during the pregnancy is consistent with recent attention to marijuana and legalization in various states,” said Dr. Haywood Brown of Duke University School of Medicine.

This writer’s perspective

Increased availability of legal marijuana around the country is not likely to slow down in coming years. So, research and education on its use must catch up.

If the medical risks of marijuana use among pregnant women aren’t made widely known, untold numbers of otherwise healthy pregnancies could be negatively impacted.

Unfortunately, there may be a significant segment of the pregnant population that’s willing to roll the dice with their child’s life.

“Then there’s the other group who take a more pragmatic view of pregnancy,” said Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, chief of OB-GYN at the University of Texas Southwestern’s hospital. “They know there are potential risks involved with many decisions they make involving medication exposure, alcohol use and smoking, but they decide those risks are acceptable, especially if the risks are not well-defined or conclusive.”

Methodology

The survey studied 279,457 pregnant women in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health care system using self-reporting and toxicology screenings.

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