More Pregnant Women Report Using Cannabis

More Pregnant Women Report Using Cannabis

The side effects of cannabis prohibition means less scientific research is conducted, but also causes patients to withhold their cannabis use from medical professionals. This also applies to pregnant women who may be using cannabis to cope with ailments during pregnancy.

One recent study surveyed cannabis use among women and pregnant women. Among pregnant women between the ages of 12 and 17, 14 percent admitted to using cannabis within the past 30 days, compared to 6 percent of non-pregnant women in the same age group.

“Those numbers are very distressing,” said Nora Volkow, an author of the study and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“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 they are pregnant.”

The results of the study inspires multiple theories as to why young pregnant women are using cannabis.

“Sex, drugs, and rock and roll go together for a reason,” said Stuart Gitlow, an addiction psychiatrist and former president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “People do them as a method for rebelling outside the parameters of what they are supposed to do.”

But Gitlow also speculated that a lack of awareness may cause teens to use cannabis as a “natural” remedy for pain and morning sickness.

“That is unfortunate because it implies that it is safe,” he said. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.”

Another theory is that this particular age group faces many obstacles during pregnancy that adult women do not. Parenthood is the leading cause of teen girls dropping out of school, and results in fewer women graduating from college. Although sexual education and access to birth control has helped teen pregnancy rates go down, the social stigma can cause mothers to hide their pregnancy, isolating them from medical professionals. “Being pregnant often has a really strong influence on a woman’s life,” said Roshini Zachariah, a physician in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington. “They may think, I want to do everything right for my baby.”

pregnant-women-using-cannabis

The legalization of cannabis at the state level has accelerated in recent years, with one in five Americans living in a state where marijuana is legal. While a multi-billion dollar industry has developed in response to legalization, public health awareness has yet to catch up, partially due to the lack of peer-reviewed research caused by cannabis prohibition.

The job of medical professionals will be to find a way to effectively counsel patients without jeopardizing their privacy, nor risking the physician’s license. Parents who have administered medical marijuana risk a visit by Child Protective Services and risk losing custody of their child.

“It highlights the importance of educating the public on measures that could protect the newborn,” said Volkow.

In states with a thriving cannabis industry, tax revenue collected from the sale of cannabis is often used to fund public health awareness campaigns. “I’ve always said we need to start treating marijuana like the drug it is, not the drug some fear it to be,” said Colorado Rep. Jonathan Singer, who has helped shaped his state’s cannabis legislation. Colorado’s “Good to Know” campaign focused on educating new users as well as pregnant women about responsible cannabis use.

New Study Will Research the Effects of Cannabis During Pregnancy

New Study Will Research the Effects of Cannabis During Pregnancy

With more efforts being made to research marijuana, a study at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is underway to investigate the effects of marijuana use in pregnant mothers.

Assistant Professor Torri Metz, MD was recently awarded a Child and Maternal Health Pilot Grant by the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, which will be used to develop a questionnaire for pregnant mothers focusing on their use of marijuana.

Doctors typically discourage use of marijuana during pregnancy, along with other substances that pass the blood brain barrier. This recommendation is somewhat speculative since there is limited data to support their advice.

“If you look at the literature now, you find very mixed results,” Metz said.

“About half of the studies say there is an association between marijuana use and adverse outcomes; about half say there is no association.”

Metz’s specialty is in high-risk pregnancy, and she performs obstetrics duties at University of Colorado Hospital.

As marijuana continues to be legalized at the state level, patients seem more apt to report their use to physicians.

“I am seeing more and more self-reported marijuana use in the clinic,”

Metz said.

“I don’t know if this is a reflection of women using more marijuana or of the women being more willing to tell us about their use.”

In addition to the questionnaire, researchers will interview pregnant mothers, who have consented to the study, on their use of marijuana and compare it with tissue samples taken from the umbilical cord. The combined data will be used to create a method of gathering data for future studies. This baseline process will help determine if marijuana has an effect on premature births, hypertension in pregnant mothers (which can lead to preeclampsia), stillbirths, and other complications.

“These are the obstetric issues we face every day and we don’t understand the impact of marijuana use on these outcomes,” said Metz. “I want to change that.

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