Over the past year a new group of users have emerged amid widespread marijuana legalization. That would be pregnant women, according to a new study released in the JAMA Network Open journal. Women using cannabis in the year before their pregnancy, in addition to early in their pregnancy, is on the rise, reports the researchers behind the study.
The report comes from Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Prior to California legalizing recreational marijuana, the data was collected via 276,991 women living in the state at their first prenatal visit. Women self-reporting using marijuana in the year before pregnancy rose from 6.8% in 2009 to 12.5% in 2017.
However, women that admitted to using cannabis while pregnant wasn’t such a stark increase. Instead, the number only jumped between 1.9% in 2009 to 3.4% in 2017. Rates of women prior to pregnancy using marijuana monthly, weekly, and daily also saw noticeable increases. To what effect these rising numbers had is unknown, though researchers behind the study urged caution.
“There is still much that is unknown on the topic, including what type of cannabis products pregnant women are using and whether the health consequences differ based on mode of cannabis administration and frequency of prenatal cannabis use,” lead author Kelly Young-Wolff said in a statement.
While the research is limited in its scope due to its reliance on self-reported findings, it did hint at some explanations for these rises in cannabis usage. Anecdotal evidence supported women turning to marijuana to relieve morning sickness symptoms. Women were about four times more likely to use marijuana during their first trimester if they suffered from serious nausea and vomiting symptoms, according to previous research.
Another study published in the JAMA Open Network focused on how marijuana use during pregnancy could affect birth outcomes. Using data from Ontario, the study did report an raised likelihood of poor birth outcomes, including an increased risk of premature birth. While 7% of non-cannabis users suffered a risk of preterm birth, that number rose to 10% in cannabis users, a statistically significant difference.
However, most of the data and research behind marijuana use amidst pregnancy is spotty and incomplete. The truth is we really don’t know what effect, adverse or otherwise, could have on pregnancy. Until then, it’s best to consider taking a marijuana break while pregnant.