Rate of cannabis use among pregnant women doubles in the U.S.

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Cannabis use among pregnant women during the first trimester has doubled in the U.S., according to new government research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that was presented on Tuesday.

In a 2016-17 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 7 percent of pregnant women, or 1 in 14, responded that they had consumed cannabis within the last 30 days. Comparatively, in 2002-03 that number was approximately 3 percent. The data was collected from women between 12 and 44 years old.

Cannabis use in the first trimester saw the most significant increase, rising from approximately 6 percent to 12 percent.

Many women in the survey attributed their first-trimester cannabis use to not yet knowing they were pregnant. Some women reported using the drug to treat morning sickness, while a few others responded that their physician had recommended it.

The rate of cannabis use has also increased in American women who are not pregnant – rising from 7 percent to approximately 12 percent (1 in 8).

Cannabis is legal in many states in the U.S. but is categorized by the DEA as a Schedule I drug and remains prohibited under federal law.

Meanwhile, a 2019 Canadian study found that cannabis use during pregnancy can increase the chance of premature birth. However, the study also found that cannabis users had lower rates of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia than non-users, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

So is it worth a try?

“Because we don’t know exactly how harmful it is, it’s better to err on the side of caution,” Dr. Nora Volkow, lead author of the study and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) said in an interview with The Washington Post. Dr. Volkow added that cannabis consumption during pregnancy is “not worth the risk.”

“Cannabis use during pregnancy has been associated with effects on fetal growth, including low birth weight and length, and these outcomes may be more likely among women who consume marijuana frequently during pregnancy, especially in the first and second trimesters,” NIDA said in a press release. “This study emphasizes the need to screen and intervene for cannabis use among all pregnant women and underscores the need for additional research to assess fetal outcomes related to prenatal cannabis exposure.”

The researchers warned against relying entirely on the data to render judgments and stated that more research is needed.

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