Study: Number of pregnant women using marijuana on the rise

In the past two years, more than 3,700 pregnant women were hospitalized in Missouri for opioid abuse. (Graphicstock)

A recent study found the number of pregnant women using marijuana is on the rise.

There are a number of reasons some women say they use marijuana during pregnancy -- everything from trying to calm morning sickness to nerves. But whatever the reasons, some doctors say it's just not worth the risk.

Dr. Carl Weiner at the University of Kansas Health System says he too has patients who admit they smoke marijuana during pregnancy. The first question he asks them is why.

"If you're just trying to get a buzz, maybe you could wait a couple months. If it's because your nausea is terrible, maybe we can try something else we know is safe," Weiner said.

A recent study out of California found that the number of expectant mothers using marijuana has risen from 4.2 percent of women in 2009 to more than 7 percent, seven years later.

It should be noted in some of states, where marijuana use is legal for either medical or recreational purpose, the numbers tend to be higher. Women who live in those states may also be more likely to admit if they've used it while pregnant.

Fetal exposure to marijuana can have some similar effects to smoking cigarettes, including reducing oxygen supply and possible preterm birth. However, the effects of THC are largely unknown.

An Australian study found that babies born to regular marijuana users were twice as likely to end up in the NICU after birth. Also, several studies have shown that after the age of three, children born to marijuana-smoking mothers didn't score as well on cognitive and behavioral tests compared to other children.

So is it worth the risk?

"I don't know why I'd do something purposely that might have an adverse outcome and know that it might have an adverse outcome," Weiner said.

The fact is, researchers are just scratching the surface of long-term studies in people whose mothers smoked marijuana during pregnancy. There's a lot we simply don't know, and until we know those answers, doctors urge mothers to use their best judgment.

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