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More expectant moms are turning to medical marijuana

PITTSBURGH — The medical marijuana business is growing in Pennsylvania, but the use of marijuana to treat certain sicknesses is really worrying doctors.

Channel 11 found out Pittsburgh doctors looked into how many moms to be were using marijuana.

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A new study from the University of Pittsburgh looked at marijuana use in expecting moms and found 30 percent of study participants had tried marijuana during pregnancy. Our sister station in Jacksonville, Florida, found one such mother.

She said there was nothing she could find to stop her morning sickness during pregnancy.


"I was just so tired of being sick all the time," said the mother, who did not want to reveal her name.

She went into a chat group and talked to some other moms to be. Some of them recommended marijuana oil.

"When I started using it, it would take five minutes," she said. "It'd kick in, and you don't feel the high, it just takes care of the issue."

We spoke to Dr. Judy Chang, an associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of OBGYN. She led the study and described how some of the participants justified their marijuana use.

"They viewed it as a substance, but it was viewed as a natural substance, almost like an herb," she said. "Or a supplement."

Those women had already been using before pregnancy and said it helped with mood and nausea. Researchers found it was often trusted more than traditional treatments.

"Chemicals are viewed a bit more suspiciously and that included prescription medications," Chang said.

The mom from Florida echoed a similar thought.

"If people want to consider me a bad mom because I did something naturally, other than taking a prescription medication where the side effects are so much worse, I feel like they're judging a book by its cover," she said.

That's worrying to doctors because there is still not enough research about the impact of marijuana use on fetuses. Four big studies in the 80's and 90's suggested possible long-term neurocognitive effects. Doctors say marijuana has become more potent since those studies and is used in bigger quantities.

"In the efforts to try to legalize, those who are purporting to support it are perhaps minimizing even the possibility or even the curiosity about potential risks," said Chang.

Researchers say women do recognize that the use of marijuana could get them in trouble with children, youth and family services. That makes it difficult for doctors to get honest answers about marijuana use from patients and steer them to accurate information.

Said Chang, "We want to give everybody the information, the resources and the interventions that they need to help make their pregnancy and their health outcomes the best."