US has become more flexible about marijuana use, with 32 states having legalized weed. Now more women, especially those who are pregnanat are turning to the drug, a government research has found. The study  was based on data collected from over 400,000 women between 2002 and 2017.

They found that the percent of women who used pot during pregnancy doubled during the period, from 3.4% to 7%. Dr Beth Han of the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said the percentage of women who confirmed daily or near daily marijuana use during pregnancy more than tripled from 0.9% in 2002 to 3.4% in 2017.

Studies also reveal preterm birth rate, birth before 37 weeks’ gestation, linked to the use of marijuana during pregnancy. Researchers said the preterm birth rate has doubled from 6% among non-users to 12% among users. Cannabis use during pregnancy also affects the birth weight, with studies highlighting obstetric complications and the need for newborns to be cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit. However, studies to date have not proved the cause and effect and other associated risk factors.

The Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr Nora Volkow, who is also one of the authors of the government study pointed out the premature births linked to marijuana use during pregnancy. “Animal studies have linked high doses early in pregnancy with fetal brain abnormalities.” Volkow also said that similar risks are unknown in humans. “Because we don’t know exactly how harmful it is, its better to err on the side of caution. Marijuana use during pregnancy is not worth the risk.”

Marijuana use is seeing a rise in the United States as 32 states have legalized its use for medical purpose. And 10 states have relaxed laws for recreational use. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies are marketing cannabis to pregnant women for morning sickness. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, citing concerns about prenatal marijuana use and harmful effects on the fetus, have advised pregnant users to quit.