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One in 10 pregnant women in California use marijuana to treat severe morning sickness, study finds

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One in 10 pregnant women in California use cannabis to treat severe morning sickness, a new study has found.

In fact, researchers say twice as many women who report feeling extremely nauseous turn to marijuana compared to women who don’t feel sick.

Past research has shown that there has been a rise among pregnant woman using pot, but the reason as to why wasn’t clear.

The team, from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, says they hope their findings lead to doctors screening more pregnant woman and offering safer methods of treating morning sickness symptoms.

Pregnant woman with severe morning sickness are much more likely to use marijuana than those with no symptoms, a new study has found (file image)

Morning sickness is a misleading term because many pregnant women who experience nausea feel sick in the afternoon, in the evening, or even all day.

Scientists have not been able to determine why morning sickness occurs, but speculations include increased levels of hormones in the brain that trigger nausea or the queasiness being an abnormal response to the stress of pregnancy.  

As many as 90 percent of women suffer from morning sickness during the early stages of pregnancy. 

Across the spectrum, morning sickness can range from mild symptoms to a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum, which can result in hospitalization due to dehydration from severe nausea and vomiting.

Several celebrities have opened up about their experience with hyperemesis gravidarum including Kate Middleton, Kim Kardashian and Kelly Clarkson.

For this study, the team looked at more than 220,000 pregnant women in Northern California between 2009 and 2016.

The women filled out questionnaires about their substance use and submitted urine samples around the eight-week mark.

Researchers say they determined that approximately five percent of the women used marijuana during their pregnancy.

According to the CDC, this is consistent with national statistics, which say one out of 20 women use cannabis while pregnant.

However, the rate varied among women who reported on whether their morning sickness symptoms were severe, mild or non-existent. 

About 11 percent of women who reported severe nausea and vomiting, used marijuana during pregnancy.

For women with mild nausea, this rate fell to about eight percent and approximately five percent of women with no nausea and vomiting used weed. 

The researchers say they were not surprised by their results.

‘This is line with what we were expecting,’ lead author Dr Kelly Young-Wolff, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Northern California, told Daily Mail Online.

‘We saw an increase from four to seven percent between 2009 and 2016 and I think there are a number of reasons.

‘Public perception that marijuana is harmless is increasing over time so people are becoming more open to marijuana use. 

The researchers say that although their findings seem to confirm their hypothesis, they were unable to determine whether the women began using marijuana before or after they knew they were pregnant.

Women with severe nausea and vomiting were twice more likely to report using cannabis compared to those with no symptoms

Women with severe nausea and vomiting were twice more likely to report using cannabis compared to those with no symptoms

‘We hope this will alert clinicians to the fact that women do use marijauna while pregnant,’ said Dr Young-Wolff.

‘So the best way to combat this is through screening and re-screening and making sure pregnant women re warned about the potential risks of marijuana use.’ 

our study can help alert clinicians to the fact that women with nausea and vomiting in pregnancy are more likely to use marijuana,’ said senior author Dr Nancy Goler, a Kaiser Permanente OB-GYN in Northern California.

‘Pregnant women need to be screened and given the information about the possible negative effects, while also receiving medically recommended treatment options.’

For future research, the team hopes to study how the pregnant women ingested marijuana, such as via smoking or edibles, and how prenatal exposure to cannabis affects health.

According to a 2017 study from Columbia University, the rate of pregnant women who used marijuana increased from 2.37 percent in 2002 to 3.85 percent in 2014 – a 62 percent spike. 

Currently, the risks of marijuana use among expectant women remain unclear.

A few studies have indicated that cannabis could lead to complications including premature birth, low birth weight and small head circumference but there is not much evidence pointing to this.

However, recommendations released by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say women should avoid marijuana before and during pregnancy.


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