Young Women Are Smoking Marijuana More While Pregnant, But Doctors Say It's Risky
The symptoms of pregnancy can be rough. Between morning sickness and wild cravings, some women will use any method to cope with the symptoms, including smoking marijuana? As the legalization of marijuana becomes widespread across the United States, it becomes more accessible. Although pregnant women are told to abstain from almost anything — from drinking caffeine to eating sushi — a recent study has found that young women are smoking marijuana more while pregnant, but doctors still say its risky.
One in five Americans now live in a state where it is legal to smoke weed without a letter from a doctor. But despite warnings about smoking while pregnant, it appears that pregnant teens are taking part in smoking marijuana than ever before. A study conducted of 410,000 women between the ages of 12 and 44 over a span of 13 years, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month, found that 14 percent of pregnant teenagers between the ages of 12 to 17 reported that they had smoked weed compared to 6 percent of their non-pregnant peers. While marijuana is becoming legal in more states, the risks, especially to expecting mothers, still stand.
"Teenagers who get pregnant are the ones at greatest risk of having poor pregnancy outcomes, and then on top of that, you have the effect of teenage women smoking marijuana while pregnant," Dr. Nora Volkow, the author of the study, told ABC News.
What makes smoking marijuana while pregnant so risky? According to The New York Times, marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient, THC, can "cross the placenta to reach the fetus" which could potentially harm the baby's "brain development, cognition, and birth weight" and can also present itself in breast milk. Furthermore, some studies have found that prenatal marijuana exposure could cause child behavioral problems. Some expecting mothers might not realize the consequences of their actions because, as The New York Times reports, smoking marijuana while pregnant has not been linked to obvious birth defects.
But it is definitely best that pregnant women, especially pregnant teenagers abstain from smoking marijuana while pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that smoking marijuana while pregnant can increase the risk for developmental problems in children and the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that almost all drugs, including THC, have some kind of effect on the fetus. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also advise pregnant women to not smoke marijuana due to "impaired neurodevelopment" and exposure to the "adverse effects of smoking."
"Any foreign substance that doesn't directly benefit maternal or fetal health should be avoided," Shayna Conner, an assistant professor in the division of maternal fetal medicine and ultrasound at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine told NPR. This of course, includes marijuana.
While marijuana is becoming more accessible and prevalent amongst pregnant teens, it doesn't mean that pregnant teens should be smoking it. When it comes to smoking anything, let alone marijuana, while pregnant, the risks carry far more weight than the benefits.