More Young People Use Marijuana During Pregnancy — But Is That Safe?

modeled by Anna Sudit; photographed by Rachel Cabitt; produced by Sam Nodelman.

An increasing number of women are using marijuana during pregnancy, and particularly young women between 18 and 24, according to recent research published in JAMA.

For the study, researchers looked at data from a group of 279,457 pregnant women from Kaiser Permanente Northern California between 2012 and 2016. Overall, the rates of pregnant women smoking weed increased from 4.2% to 7.1% over the four-year period. But the rates varied significantly when researchers looked at separate age brackets.

So, which age group was smoking the most weed while pregnant? For those 18 and younger, the rate jumped from 12.5% to 21.8% during the four-year period. In the 18-to-24 range, the percentage increased from 9.8% to 19%. And for 25-to-34-year-olds, it went from 3.4% to 5.1%. But researchers wrote that these rates are likely much higher, because people often lie to their doctors about drug use for fear of stigmatization.

While this is just one study on a very specific population of Californian women who may have easier access to weed than the rest of the country, it does shed light on the trend of mothers using weed to manage certain conditions, like anxiety. And during pregnancy, people may find that smoking weed helps curb nausea and pain, which is one possible explanation for this trend. But just because it seems to help, and everyone seems to be smoking weed while pregnant, doesn't necessarily mean it's a great idea.

As you might expect, there are certainly some side effects to smoking weed while growing a human inside your body. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has lengthy guidelines when it comes to marijuana use for pregnant and nursing people. Some studies suggest that smoking pot or consuming edibles during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight or developmental delays, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For these reasons, the ACOG recommends that you stop using marijuana if you're pregnant or considering getting pregnant.

The bottom line: Be transparent with your doctor about your marijuana use (along with tobacco and alcohol consumption), whether you're pregnant or just going in for an annual checkup. It's important that your doctor understands all the factors that go into your lifestyle and health, so they can give you accurate advice. Who knows? They may know of some alternative remedies for morning sickness and anxiety that don't involve getting stoned.

Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws.