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Can using marijuana during pregnancy negatively impact the baby after birth?

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Answer: Unknown

The exact impact on the baby after birth when exposed to marijuana is still found to be inconclusive according to experts. Mothers often perceive marijuana use to be "safe" and use for helping with relief from stress, appetite for food (which is important to keep a healthy diet during pregnancy), and relieving nausea. But with the inconclusive studies on the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy, it is advised against. Of course every pregnancy is different and an individual's doctor will advise as they see best fit for that specific mother.

Origin and Prevalence

The 21st century has brought a revolution of new ideas, technologies and medicines. It has also shed light on an old friend, cannabis. Since the late 1930's cannabis has been labeled as an illegal drug, and at times has been considered just as bad as drugs like meth and heroin. For years in America, there was a war on cannabis. However, due to a growth in popularity near the end of the 20th century, the 21st century brought a new trend of legal, recreational and medicinal pot. This growth was started by California in 1996 when they became the first state to legalize medicinal pot; over the next four years seven states would follow, including Oregon, Washington and Alaska all in the same year. After the medical legalization came, recreational followed. The first states being Colorado and Washington (Timeline of State Marijuana Legalization Laws

By Sarah Trumble , May 2,2016). It is important to note that medicinal and recreational marijuana remains illegal under federal law in the United States.

Now that cannabis is becoming normalized many people are not only trying and using pot, but also asking questions about it. the CDC reported In 2014, "a total of 2.5 million persons aged ≥12 years had used marijuana" and that "there are 7000 new users every day".( Marijuana and Public Health). Now that people have tried it, many are using it regularly, and have incorporated it into their daily routines. Amongst this community are pregnant women. The CDC says that "1 in 25 pregnant women in America use marijuana"( Marijuana and Public Health).

Other than the CDC many researchers like Torri D. Metz are attempting to tackle this question of "Can using marijuana during pregnancy negatively impact the baby after birth?". For many years the general belief has been yes, but now new studies and evaluations are coming up with new answers. Metz does and analysis of this phenomenon is here study Marijuana use in pregnancy and lactation: a review of the evidence. People are confused, they ask questions like "if I use marijuana medicinally, is it the same as if I was taking a prescribed drug by my doctor while pregnant?". This article will be able to inform women and men on the idea of smoking cannabis while pregnant, and the effects it could potentially have the the child.

Issues and Analysis

Although studies started in the late 1970's on marijuana use during pregnancy, no conclusive answer has been found to this date. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) all report the same conclusion. This is because, there has been very few controlled research studies done on independent marijuana use during pregnancy. For an accurate verifiable answer to this question several specific studies will have to be done. Examples would be studies done during the individual stages of pregnancy because the effects during the first months could be different than if used at the end of pregnancy. Also the levels of THC in the mothers will come into question and the potency of the cannabis. It is notable that although no obvious birth defects have been linked to marijuana use, studies have been linked to lower test scores of children in adolescent years of mothers that used.

In October 2017 the ACOG Committee Opinion Number 722 was published with their current recommendations, "Women reporting marijuana use should be counseled about concerns regarding potential adverse health consequences of continued use during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue marijuana use." the article continues to say, "Studies noted that children who were exposed to marijuana in utero had lower scores on tests of visual problem solving, visual-motor coordination, and visual analysis than children who were not exposed to marijuana in utero".....but "It is difficult to be certain about the specific effects of marijuana on pregnancy and the developing fetus, in part because those who use it often use other drugs as well, including tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs, and in part because of other potential confounding exposures."

Since the recent influx of reported marijuana use from pregnant women, possibly because states are legalizing and it is being reported more willingly. The CDC updated in April 2017 with their advice on Marijuana During Pregnancy and even published a Fast Fact Sheet for easy information access. The CDC recommends against using marijuana during pregnancy because of the limited research. "Marijuana use during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby's health. The chemicals in marijuana (in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) pass through your system to your baby and can negatively affect your baby's development."

The NCBI has several articles in their online database written by medical professionals about their findings and research on the topic. It is agreed that further research is needed especially since legalization. Legalization of marijuana forced the immediate need to educate the public nationally about use during pregnancy. As stated, "Growing pro-marijuana advocacy efforts may increase marijuana use among pregnant women. In the absence of public health messages about the potential risks, marijuana may be perceived as "safe" to use during pregnancy compared to other illicit drugs and in comparison to alcohol and cigarettes."

Marijuana is becoming the most popular drug that women use during pregnancy. While the results remain inconclusive on the exact effects of marijuana use during pregnancy, it is advised against to use habitually. In some ways this may be a positive if it can lessen usage of cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking, two drugs that have guaranteed birth defects from addictive abuse. Marijuana use may medically be prescribed to a pregnant women by their doctor if the benefit is seen to outweigh the risk or the risk of another drug that would be used in it's place.

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