- More and more women are using marijuana during pregnancy to cope with nausea, but many don't know the potential effects it could have on themselves and their fetuses.
- A new study by Kaiser Permanente looked at the wide variety of questions pregnant women are asking about weed, suggesting doctors aren't educating women about cannabis-related risks.
- Women asked questions like "Does weed keep you skinny while pregnant?" and "Does marijuana show up in baby poop?"
- Some experts say doctors barely know enough themselves to educate pregnant women.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
An increasing number of women are using marijuana during pregnancy, prompting all sorts of questions about the psychoactive drug's understudied-yet-potential effects on their bodies, brains, and fetuses.
For a new study, published January 30 in the Journal of Women's Health, doctors from Kaiser Permanente looked at pregnancy- and marijuana-specific questions that were published on an anonymous health forum between March 2011 to January 2017.
Looking at 364 questions from moms-to-be, they found the most common question (24.7%) came from pregnant women wanting to know if their cannabis use could be detected by doctors, for fear of getting penalized or reprimanded. Almost a quarter (22.6%) of the questions were about whether the drug affects fertility, and 21.3% asked how cannabis use could affect their fetuses.
But the medical providers responding to women's questions also had to field some more unusual queries.
At least one asked: "Does weed keep you skinny while pregnant?" Another said: "Does marijuana show up in baby poop?" And another asked: "Is it safe to smoke weed in the second trimester?"
The study authors said the questions show doctors have a responsibility to stay up-to-date on research about weed and pregnancy, and to share what they know with women, who have an increased interest in using marijuana while pregnant.
Marijuana use during pregnancy is on the rise
According to a January 2019 letter in JAMA Pediatrics that's based on a 2018 national drug survey, marijuana use during pregnancy in the US 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. "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.
Using marijuana during pregnancy could affect a child's brain development
Despite marijuana's known ability to decrease symptoms like nausea and vomiting, using the drug during pregnancy comes with health risks and a lot of unknowns.
The US 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.
Women have questions about marijuana and pregnancy, but science doesn't have the answers
In the new study, pregnant women had many legitimate questions about the safety of using marijuana pre- or post-partum, but research hasn't caught up yet.
Questions included: "I smoked marijuana yesterday. When can I continue to safely breastfeed?"; "Is secondhand marijuana smoke extremely bad for pregnant women to be around?"; and "Is the smell of growing unsmoked marijuana bad for a infant?"
The study authors say the findings show women need better education about marijuana and pregnancy.
However, "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."
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