A new survey shows that 14 percent of pregnant teenagers are marijuana smokers, and most likely, not aware of the risks to themselves or their babies.
While there is little research about the effects of marijuana on a growing baby, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) officially advises pregnant women to stop using the drug throughout their pregnancy. Additionally, according to Dr. Judy Chang of the University of Pittsburgh, there are studies that do suggest smoking pot while pregnant may present risk to the pregnancy.
Dr. Chang says that babies born to mothers who use marijuana while pregnant may have a lower birth weight, and may have cognitive difficulties that affect their learning. This can be a bigger problem for those children when they are teenagers, she says.
Research has already shown that low birth weight is an issue for teen moms, mainly because they are less likely to receive prenatal care, and according to ACOG, more likely to smoke cigarettes while pregnant.
Now a new study from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health looked at over 400,000 women who were 12 to 44 years old. Of those, approximately 14,000 were pregnant.
The survey looked at marijuana usage in pregnancies, based on the women’s self-reported answers. National Institute of Drug Abuse director Dr. Nora Volkow said that the information in the survey may even be under representations of true usage because the women self-reported.
She said they found that almost four percent of all pregnant women surveyed reported they’d used marijuana in the past month, and while pregnant. When it came to the age of pot users, those who were 26 or older used much less pot than those who were 12-25, and she attributes this to basic education on drug usage effects.
What surprised her team, though, was the percentage of pregnant teens who used pot compared to non-pregnant teenagers. Six percent of nonpregnant teens admitted to using pot, but 14 percent of pregnant teens said they used. They also found that those who used pot while pregnant did so more often during the first trimester, which is unfortunately when growing babies may be most affected by drugs.
Dr. Chang says she’s not surprised by the survey as more and more adolescents are using and accepting marijuana use as ‘normal’ and even showing increased use among pregnant women to control their nausea. That said, there are big concerns about the usage, no matter the reason, and more research needs to be done in order to show the risks of brain damage in a developing baby.
Other research has suggested that exposure to even small amounts of THC (found in marijuana) put a newborn at risk for long-term addiction, as well as other neural development damage.
Photo Credit: [CBS]