The percentage of pregnant women who say they've used marijuana has almost doubled, according to a research letter published in "JAMA Pediatrics." (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The number of pregnant women who say they used marijuana over the last two decades has nearly doubled, according to federal data.
While still rare, prenatal use is growing. Between 2002 and 2016, marijuana use in pregnant women rose from 2.85 percent to almost 5 percent, according to data from the U.S. National Survey of Drug Use. Of the 12,000 women ages 18 to 44 surveyed, 3,500 who said they used the drug were in their first trimester of pregnancy, a critical time in a baby’s development.
The results were reported in a research letter published this week in JAMA Pediatrics.
“Unlike alcohol and cigarette use, prenatal cannabis use has not decreased, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is a key phase of neural development for the fetus,” the letter’s authors said.
A plea to stop using prenatal marijuana
The letter’s authors did not address why there was an uptick in prenatal use, but more states have relaxed laws on recreational marijuana and more are considering it. In a separate study published in JAMA, pregnant women self-reported using marijuana to treat severe nausea and vomiting.
Researchers found that the rise in cannibis use among pregnant women was similar among various subgroups of women.
The letter’s researchers also appealed to expectant mothers to stop using marijuana.
“Greater public awareness regarding the consequences of prenatal cannabis exposure in offspring health is necessary.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned expectant mothers that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in cannabis, can harm a baby’s development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women avoid the drug while pregnant or nursing a child.
Fewer pregnant women smoke, drink
Fewer pregnant women are drinking and smoking, according to federal data. (Photo: Getty Images)
The data also showed a decrease in the percentage of pregnant women who say they are drinking and smoking.
The sharpest decline was in smoking with 17.5 percent of women in 2002 saying they smoked compared to 10.3 percent in 2016. Researchers noted that among black women ages 26 to 44 and women who did not finish high school, the decrease in smoking were less pronounced.
Alcohol use has remained fairly consistent with about 10 percent of women saying they drank during pregnancy in 2002 and 8.5 percent saying they drank in 2016.
Studies vary over how much alcohol is safe for a pregnant woman to drink, but heavy drinking can lead to fetal alcohol disorder.
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