The number of women in the United States who use marijuana during pregnancy has been difficult to gauge, partly because some women are reluctant to tell their doctors; at least 24 states consider substance use during pregnancy a form of child abuse, so divulging such information can have serious consequences.
Still, a number of studies nationally suggest there’s been a sharp jump in pot use among pregnant women, especially among younger mothers.
Smith and Sauter both told their doctors of their marijuana use, and after they gave birth, their babies were tested for signs of marijuana’s chief active ingredient, THC.
Researchers say psychoactive compounds in marijuana easily cross the placenta, exposing the fetus to perhaps 10 percent of the THC — tetrahydrocannabinol — that the mother receives, and higher concentrations if the mom uses pot repeatedly.
Dr. Dana Gossett, a research obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco who also treats patients, says studies show marijuana increases the risk of stillbirth and adversely affects how a baby’s brain develops.
Gossett cites some research that suggests children exposed to marijuana while growing in the womb can have poorer performance on visual-motor coordination — tasks like catching a ball or solving visual problems like puzzles.
And studies also show, she says, these kids may have behavioral problems at higher rates than other children by the age of 14, and are at greater risk for initiating marijuana use.
Varney, Sarah/Kaiser Health News. “Is smoking pot while pregnant safe for the baby?.” www.transforminghealth.org. 29 January 2018. Web. 30 January 2018.