Editor’s note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.
The theories on what is safe for pregnant women to put into their bodies have been ever-changing throughout the generations. Our grandmothers may have smoked cigarettes and drank wine while pregnant, thinking nothing of it. I remember my own mother saying once that she wouldn’t even take Tylenol. When I was pregnant, big no-nos were unpasteurized cheeses and sushi. But recent studies are showing that today’s pregnant women are becoming increasingly likely to curb their morning sickness and anxiety with — of all things — weed.
With marijuana becoming legalized in more and more states, it’s also becoming far less taboo. And just as plenty of moms credit their nightly glass of wine for helping them cope with the daily stress of child-raising, it appears some moms are also now saying, why can’t pot be my go-to release? Rather than popping a Xanax, Mom might opt for a pot cookie or mint before bed to chill her out.
But does pregnancy fall under that same socially acceptable umbrella? Some moms say yes.
JAMA reports that based on a survey of 318,000 pregnant women in California, marijuana use among pregnant women actually increased from 4.2% to 7.1% between 2009 and 2016. And among those surveyed who were 18 and younger, this rate increased from 12.5% to 21.8% during the time-frame. As for pregnant women ages 18 to 24, marijuana use increased use from 9.8% to 19%.
But it’s not just on the rise in California. JAMA also looked at national data and found that marijuana usage among pregnant women has been on the rise for the last two decades, increasing from 2.37% in 2002 to 3.85% in 2014, with younger pregnant women (18 to 25) most likely to use it.
Although there’s not actually a great deal of research yet on how marijuana usage affects the fetus or pregnant mothers, doctors and researches often discourage it for fear that it could harm the baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that marijuana usage could put the child at risk for low birth weight and developmental problems. And the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discourages marijuana use for women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, pregnant, and/or breastfeeding.
With that said, some pregnant women still feel that using marijuana in limited doses to cope with various health problems may actually be safer than over the counter or prescription drugs. An article on herb.co argues that the health risks for a pregnant woman and fetus are far greater with tobacco and alcohol usage, as opposed to cannabis.
One big question still remains, though: Is there actually less risk, or is there simply less research out there to discern the risks of fetal exposure to marijuana?
For some women who suffer such severe sickness that they cannot keep any food down, they feel that turning to marijuana may be their only option. Which is worse for their baby, they have to ask themselves — a malnourished mother or a mother who smokes or ingests pot?
Kristina Hammer of The Angrivated Mom has openly shared her story of consuming cannabis to help with her hyperemesis gravidarum before. It was only when she began treating her condition with pot that Hammer says she regained her strength and could better care for her other children. Another mom (who asked to remain anonymous) tells Babble that she was a regular user of marijuana before motherhood, and that when she became extremely sick with nausea during pregnancy, her doctor actually recommended she smoke pot to help her feel better.
For now though, it seems the jury is still more of less out, as there’s not much definitive research to determine the actual long-term effects of marijuana exposure on a baby in utero. But if these recent numbers continue to increase as marijuana becomes more and more mainstream, there likely will be. And then we’ll know just how safe or harmful it truly is to for a pregnant woman light up a joint or snack on a pot brownie.
The truth is, pregnancy can take its toll on the female body in a multitude of ways, and most women I know do their best to keep themselves and their babies healthy, through whatever means possible. And that, above all else, is what’s most important.