Study suggests more women using pot during pregnancy

Woman lighting a cigarette

More and more expectant mothers are using marijuana in states where it is legal, the results of a new study of California women suggests.

The study notes that marijuana is "the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy", adding that use of the drug has been increasing. For women in the 18 to 24 age bracket, marijuana usage spiked from 12.5 percent to 21.8 percent in that same period.

Teens and young adults reported a particularly high use of marijuana compared to women over 24.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, more pregnant women in the Golden State are smoking pot than ever.

While the letter does not discuss any potential problems from pot use during pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises pregnant women to avoid it.

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In many states, medical marijuana can be prescribed for treating conditions including severe nausea and pain - both of which may affect pregnant women - but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends women stay away from weed if they want to have a baby.

And with younger women, it appears mother tokes best. 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.

Opponents of decriminalising or legalising cannabis warn it will undermine public health, pointing in particular to the risk of increased use among teenagers whose developing brains are more vulnerable. "California legalized medical marijuana use in 1996, so they have grown up with the idea of it not only not being illegal but being a medical therapy", Dr. Horsager-Boehrer told CNN. However, self-reported data is notoriously unreliable. Urine tests, which are more reliable, also have their limitations; marijuana can linger in a person's urine about 30 days-and even longer for those just light up more than every once in a while. According to one survey conducted between 2007 and 2012, 79 percent of women "reported perceiving little to no harm in prenatal [pot] use", the Kaiser team noted.

Young-Wolff said marijuana usage increased the most in young females. Anecdotally, Young-Wolff said, some women may take marijuana while they're pregnant to deal with morning sickness.

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