Study says more U.S. women us­ing pot dur­ing preg­nancy

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Lind­sey Tanner

chicago» U.S. women are in­creas­ingly us­ing mar­i­juana dur­ing preg­nancy, some­times to treat morn­ing sick­ness, new re­ports sug­gest. Al­though the ac­tual num­bers are small, the trend raises con­cerns be­cause of ev­i­dence link­ing the drug with low birth weights and other prob­lems.

In 2014, al­most 4 per­cent of preg­nant women said they re­cently had used mar­i­juana, up from 2.4 per­cent in 2002, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of an­nual drug use sur­veys.

Dr. Nora Volkow, direc­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Drug Abuse, said the re­sults raise con­cerns. She urged doc­tors and other health care providers to avoid rec­om­mend­ing the drug for preg­nant women. Volkow com­mented in an edi­to­rial pub­lished on­line Mon­day, with the study in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

A sep­a­rate study in the same jour­nal found that al­most 10 per­cent of adult mar­i­juana users in the United States — 3 mil­lion peo­ple — have used it at least partly for med­i­cal rea­sons; 20 per­cent of these users live in states where med­i­cal mar­i­juana isn’t le­gal.

Volkow noted that laws le­gal­iz­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana in 29 states and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., do not list preg­nancy-re­lated con­di­tions among al­lowed uses. But the laws also don’t pro­hibit that use and don’t in­clude warn­ings about pos­si­ble harms to the fe­tus, she said.

Strong ev­i­dence of harm is lim­ited, but besides low birth weights, new­borns whose moth­ers used mar­i­juana while preg­nant may face in­creased risks for ane­mia and other prob­lems re­quir­ing in­ten­sive care.

Mem­ory and at­ten­tion prob­lems also have been found in older chil­dren whose moth­ers used mar­i­juana in preg­nancy, Volkow noted.

How mar­i­juana might lead to those prob­lems is un­clear, but Volkow said one the­ory is that it might in­ter­fere with the for­ma­tion of nerve cells and cir­cuits in the brain dur­ing fe­tal de­vel­op­ment.

The Amer­i­can Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gyne­col­o­gists dis­cour­ages mar­i­juana use by women who are preg­nant or breast­feed­ing.

Both stud­ies an­a­lyzed data from an­nual U.S. gov­ern­ment sur­veys on drug use that are based on par­tic­i­pants’ self-re­port­ing.

One fo­cused on 200,510 women of re­pro­duc­tive age who par­tic­i­pated in the 2002-14 sur­veys. Re­cent use — within the past month — among non­preg­nant women also in­creased over those years, from about 6 per­cent to 9 per­cent, re­searchers from the Columbia Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter re­ported.

Doc­tors “should screen and coun­sel preg­nant women and women con­tem­plat­ing preg­nancy about pre­na­tal mar­i­juana use,” the re­searchers said.

The other study, led by the drug agency’s Dr. Wilson Comp­ton, fo­cused on past-year mar­i­juana use by nearly 100,000 adults age 18 and older who par­tic­i­pated in the 2013-14 drug survey.

About 13 per­cent said they had used mar­i­juana; that trans­lates to about 30 mil­lion adults. Over­all, 90 per­cent used it for non­med­i­cal rea­sons only and 6 per­cent used it only for med­i­cal rea­sons.

Preva­lence of med­i­cal use was higher in states where that use is le­gal, but the re­searchers say the re­sults sug­gest some doc­tors in other states may not feel bound by re­stric­tions.

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