More young women are using pot during pregnancy

Study: More pregnant women smoking pot

From 2009 to 2016, marijuana use among pregnant women increased from 4.2 percent to 7.1 percent in Kaiser Permanente's Northern California healthcare system. Weed usage among women in that age bracket increased slightly, from 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent. In 2016, almost a quarter of pregnant teenagers had used marijuana, as had about one in five women between 18 and 24.

Pot usage among the women in the under-18 age bracket went up from 9.8 percent to 19 percent over the study period. Timing may be important, too; marijuana use in the first month of a pregnancy may increase the likelihood of a very rare birth defect called anencephaly.

The study also reported an increase in pot usage among older pregnant women ages 25 to 34. Since many studies rely on participants to report their own drug use, the study's authors said this leaves "the scope of the problem unclear".

Media reports noted that the time span of the study coincides with increased marijuana legalization in California, and the USA, and may be indicative of a continuing trend, as recreational legalization in California is scheduled to take effect on January 1.

Researchers examined screening data that encompassed some 280,000 women who were tested between 2009 and 2016.

The researchers noted marijuana was the "most commonly used illegal drug during pregnancy", and could "impair fetal growth and neuro-development", Reuters reported.

Citing studies, the ACOG warns that "children who were exposed to marijuana in utero had lower scores on tests of visual problem solving, visual-motor coordination, and visual analysis than children who were not exposed to marijuana in utero".

Medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, and doctors say some patients use marijuana to self-treat the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy or to stimulate appetite.

"More research is needed on how marijuana use during pregnancy could impact the health and development of infants", the USA government's National Institute on Drug Abuse stated on its website.

On January 1, 2018, marijuana will become legal for recreational use in California, making it easier to buy for anyone over 21 there. A total of 23 states have laws that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes to some extent.

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