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January 10, 2017

More women are smoking marijuana during pregnancy, but is it safe?

Last month the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) released a report that said marijuana use among pregnant women has increased 62 percent. 62 percent! I was appalled to read this headline. Even though I have enjoyed a nice long friendship with Mary Jane, I think using drugs while pregnant is tantamount to prenatal child abuse. Think I am overreacting? Consider this:

JAMA warns about potential adverse consequences of prenatal marijuana exposure, citing an article published in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which says cannabis exposure in utero leads to neurophysiological and behavioral abnormalities.

According to the Mayo Clinic, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant should avoid marijuana as it may cause low birthweight or abnormalities in the baby.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that women who are pregnant or thinking about starting a family should discontinue marijuana use “because of concerns regarding impaired neurodevelopment, as well as maternal and fetal exposure to the adverse effects of smoking.”

In 2015 the American Medical Association announced that a warning to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should be posted on medical and recreational marijuana products wherever they are legally sold, saying studies suggest marijuana use may be linked with low birth weight, premature birth and behavior problems in young children.

Everyone knows that expecting mothers should not do drugs with such overwhelming evidence that ingesting marijuana during pregnancy is a bad idea. So why are more women getting high during pregnancy?

Let me be clear: I am a proponent of safe, smart marijuana use. I think it should be legalized and regulated the same way alcohol is. But I am absolutely against a pregnant woman getting high.

Some women endorse medical marijuana to alleviate some of the unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy like morning sickness and anxiety. Even though I enjoyed an easy pregnancy, I can sympathize with expecting mothers who experience its debilitating side effects. But, to me, this is no excuse for ingesting cannabis while pregnant. As someone who has used marijuana to relieve migraine headaches, I know firsthand that this herb has medical benefits. But I do not understand how a woman could take something that could potentially harm her child in utero. I was so concerned about what I was putting in my body while expecting my son that I barely took Tylenol.

Perhaps my view (and those of leading medical associations and prenatal organizations) is wrong. There are some dissenting opinions on whether or not smoking pot while pregnant does harm to your baby. As detailed in the top stoner zine, High Times, researchers from Washington University conducted a detailed analysis of more than 30 studies to determine if smoking grass while pregnant can cause low birth weight or premature delivery. The authors of the study concluded, “The increased risk for adverse neonatal outcomes reported in women using marijuana in pregnancy is likely the result of coexisting use of tobacco and other confounding factors and not attributable to marijuana use itself.” Even if there are some varying opinions about whether or not it is safe to use marijuana while pregnant, wouldn’t expecting mothers want to err on the side of caution?

When I was carrying my son, I sought guidance from other mothers. Receiving their advice was paramount to my first pregnancy because it was all unknown for me. I fear that pregnant women will hear that more women are using marijuana while carrying and will follow suit, thinking that it is safe for their babies. This would be tragic.

Let me be clear: I am a proponent of safe, smart marijuana use. I think it should be legalized and regulated the same way alcohol is. But I am absolutely against a pregnant woman getting high. I stopped smoking pot when I wanted to become a mother and you should, too. Pregnancy lasts only 10 months and breastfeeding another year or so beyond that. Giving up toking is a very small sacrifice for your precious baby.

It is cliché and corny, but when it comes to pot and pregnancy I encourage you to just say no.

What are your thoughts on marijuana and pregnancy? Do you know anyone who used marijuana while expecting? I want to hear from you! Share in the comments below or Tweet me at @ThePhillyVoice and @KathleenEGagnon.

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