Researchers have found that marijuana use among pregnant women has risen drastically over the last few years. According to NBC News, from 2009 to 2016, the proportion of pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 24 years old smoking pot went up from 10 percent to 19 percent.
The study focused on “data on more than 279,000 pregnant women who were treated at Kaiser Permanente facilities that did universal screening for marijuana use as part of standard prenatal care.” The women, who were around eight weeks pregnant, were also given questionnaires to complete, asking about marijuana use, around the time that lab tests were administered. In some instances, drug tests came back positive despite negative reporting by the women. It is possible that the tests were detecting marijuana that was in the body from before conception, but it is unlikely that this explanation applies to all cases.
The findings of the study are concerning since use of marijuana during pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight as well as impaired neurological development in the fetus. According to Barbara Yankey, a public health researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta who wasn’t involved in the study, “Marijuana use in pregnancy may be on the rise in part because the legalization of medical marijuana has made people think of the drug as less dangerous, even during pregnancy.” The severity of the effects on the fetus depends on the frequency of marijuana use. Since this study only focused on screenings that were administered in the early stages of pregnancy, it says nothing about the use of marijuana throughout the rest of the pregnancies.