Though it’s widely known that people shouldn’t smoke weed around small children, it turns out that many U.S. women are starting to use marijuana to alleviate discomfort associated with pregnancy such as nausea and body pains.
An annual drug use survey published by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that in 2002, the percent of pregnant American women using marijuana was 2.4. In 2014, nearly 4 percent of expectant mothers claimed they used marijuana. Though this increase seems small, the fact that the number is growing is causing concern within the medical community. While there are currently no laws preventing doctors from recommending marijuana to pregnant women, the report concludes that practitioners should counsel pregnant women, or women contemplating pregnancy, about the potential harm prenatal marijuana use may cause.
The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, published a follow up article addressing these concerns, saying: ‘A recent review and meta-analysis found that infants of women who used marijuana during pregnancy were more likely to be anemic, have lower birth weight, and require placement in neonatal intensive care than infants of mothers who did not use marijuana.’
Volkow recently told the Washinton Post, “Some sources on the Internet are touting marijuana as a solution for the nausea that commonly accompanies pregnancy,” However, she said, “doctors must be aware of the risks involved and err on the side of caution by not recommending the drug for pregnant patients.”
These studies have also shown links between prenatal marijuana exposure and impaired functions such as impulse control, visual memory and attention during school years.
But like all studies, this one has to look at all aspects of the pregnant mothers environment and lifestyle choices before coming to a concrete conclusion. Jaylee Gunn, PhD, believes that doctors shouldn’t put too much emphasis on marijuana being the culprit for all these negative side effects. He recently authored a study on these findings, concluding that they may well have been confounded by the concurrent use of alcohol, tobacco, or both by the mother during the pregnancy and that these side effects may not be the result of marijuana use alone.
Speaking with Medscape Medical News, he said, “The fact that there isn’t a whole lot of research on this topic means the effects of marijuana use in pregnancy are really unknown at this point in time. And while I am not a physician, I would suggest they simply be honest with women and tell them that effects of marijuana on fetal development are not known right now, so there is no way of telling what their outcomes might be.”