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ACOG: Doctors Should Urge Against Prenatal Marijuana Use

Recommendation notes evidence has shown it can affect infant brain development

TUESDAY, June 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Doctors should discourage women from using marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding, due to the potential effects that the drug’s active ingredients can have on a child’s brain development, new guidance states. The committee opinion was released Monday by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and published in the July issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy, with roughly half of female marijuana users continuing to use during pregnancy, according to the authors. Self-reported prevalence of marijuana use during pregnancy ranges from 2 to 5 percent, but increases to between 15 and 28 percent among young urban women who are struggling economically, the committee said. Four states — Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska — currently have laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Another 19 states allow marijuana use for medical purposes.

Studies show that children exposed to marijuana in utero have lower scores on tests of visual problem-solving, visual and motor coordination, and visual analysis, compared with children not exposed to the drug, the report states. Prenatal marijuana exposure also has been associated with decreased attention span and behavioral problems. The nervous system of a human fetus can respond to the chemicals in marijuana within 14 weeks of gestation, and studies have shown that 14-year-olds are more likely to be marijuana users if their mothers used the drug during pregnancy.

The committee recommends that doctors counsel women to not use marijuana during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and to share with their patients the potential risks associated with the drug. However, the opinion also emphasized that women who report they are using marijuana while they are pregnant should be treated and counseled, not reported to the authorities for punishment or prosecution.

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