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Despite Its Increasing Legality, Doctors Warn Against Mothers Using Marijuana

As of this writing, there are over 2,500 members belonging to the Facebook group "Pot-Smoking Moms Who Cuss Sometimes." The group was formed in California, where recreational marijuana usage is legal, and many members of the group believe marijuana is an all-natural and harmless home remedy that can cure or quell every physical aspect of motherhood, from dreadful morning sickness to the emotional effects of postpartum rage and depression.

Some members within the group feel particular disdain toward western medicine. Specifically, they scoff at the idea that potentially dangerous prescription drugs can be prescribed to a pregnant woman, but marijuana is still viewed as scandalous. They believe this is due to the public's ignorance about marijuana's long-term effects and so, as a result, the drug has developed a stigma.

This may be an appropriate moment to remember that marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug. This means that it is not recognized by the federal government as having any potential benefit, and that it can still be prosecuted as a drug in the same league with such other dangerous drugs as heroin and cocaine.

It is suspected that due to the increasingly legality of both recreational and medical marijuana within the U.S., more women are using cannabis products during their pregnancy than they may be reporting to their doctors. Their hesitation stems, in part, due to the fact that nearly half of the states within the U.S. (24, to be exact) consider substance use during pregnancy to be a form of child abuse. As such, admitting to using marijuana while pregnant can come with serious consequences.

Some mothers are forced to reveal their marijuana usage, though, when their children test positive for THC, marijuana's active ingredient, during routine blood tests that are performed after a baby is born. Upon testing positive for THC, social service workers are dispatched to the homes of these mothers to educate them on the potential effects of marijuana usage during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

While there may still be much we don't know about marijuana, what we do know is that marijuana does cross the placenta, leading to an exposure consisting of about 10 percent of what Mom takes in, though this number can be higher in mothers who use marijuana more regularly, or in higher concentrations.

Studies have shown that marijuana use can increase the risk of giving birth to a stillborn baby. In cases where the baby survives, the introduction of marijuana may prove to have a negative effect on the baby's brain as it develops. Children who are exposed to marijuana in utero are more likely to display poor visual-motor coordination. In other words, they will have more difficulty catching a ball or solving a visual problem, such as a puzzle.

These difficulties can extend past early childhood and into adolescence, with children showing more behavioral problems at age 14 than their peers who were not exposed to marijuana in utero. It is believed that this is due to the presence of THC in the child's brain training the brain to exhibit addictive behavior. This addictive behavior can extend to alcohol as well as marijuana.