As more women turn to marijuana during and after pregnancy as a way to cope with nausea, pain, and postpartum depression sans prescription, the FDA’s warning is becoming increasingly applicable.
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According to a
January 2019 letter in JAMA Pediatrics that’s based on a 2018 national drug survey, marijuana use during pregnancy in the U.S. has increased over the past 14 years, from 2.9% in 2002 to 5% in 2016.
Doctors haven’t pinpointed exactly why women are increasingly turning to the substance, but believe it’s mainly in order to cope with to classic
pregnancy symptoms like nausea and vomiting, which crop up in an estimated 70% of pregnancies, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
A 2014 analysis of more than 4,700 women in Hawaii found that their
odds of prenatal marijuana use were higher if they experienced nausea during their pregnancies.
There are also anecdotal reports supporting the theory that women are using marijuana to ease pregnancy symptoms.
“I used marijuana during pregnancy to ease my nausea as well as to help me sleep,” Laiken, 26, who asked to be identified by her first name only to protect her identity,
previously told Insider in an email. “It seemed I was constantly up at night and part of that was [because of] nausea.”
Laiken said she first tried anti-nausea medications for her morning sickness, but they didn’t help so she turned to marijuana, which she already used before getting pregnant. During pregnancy, she decreased her usage to two or three times per day when she felt the nausea come on and consumed it either by taking an oral oil or smoking it in a pipe.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a
combination of vitamin B6 and the sleep aid doxylamine to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
This isn’t the only population that’s found marijuana can help with queasiness, though. Some people with cancer use the substance to
decrease chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. And, it’s been shown to work well for this purpose. Marijuana use could affect a baby’s development, but more research needs to be done
Some studies have shown that marijuana use during pregnancy can affect a child’s brain development.
Despite marijuana’s known ability to decrease symptoms like nausea and vomiting, using the substance during pregnancy comes with health risks and a lot of unknowns.
The U.S. Surgeon General recently put out a
warning regarding marijuana use during pregnancy, sharing research that such use has been linked to lower birth weights. One June 2018 study in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, found that women who reported using it during their pregnancies had a 50% chance of lower birth weights.
Some research has shown that marijuana use during pregnancy can
affect a child’s brain development. These studies found children of people who used marijuana during pregnancy had lower IQs, attention problems, and more impulsiveness compared to children whose mothers didn’t use marijuana while pregnant.
Still, “what we know today is pretty sparse,”
Kjersti Aagard, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and professor at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, previously told INSIDER. “We don’t have the long-term studies to really examine that carefully from a public health perspective.”
Until more research is done, health experts recommend expecting moms abstain from marijuana use.