Some pregnant women don’t believe cannabis is harmful to their fetus

The latest evidence on women’s perspectives on the health aspects of cannabis use during pregnancy.

Some pregnant women don’t believe cannabis is harmful to their fetus
Image: UBC

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug among general and pregnant populations. Despite recommendations to abstain from cannabis use, its use is increasing during the perinatal period.

Ina new study by the UBC University, scientists found that women perceived a lack of communication from their health care providers about the risks of cannabis as an indication that the drug is safe to use during pregnancy. And thus up to one-third of pregnant ladies women do not believe cannabis is harmful to their fetus.

For the study, scientists identified the latest evidence on women’s perspectives on the health aspects of cannabis use during pregnancy and post-partum and whether their perceptions influence decision-making about using the drug. They identified the following databases: MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, and CINAHL.

Across the databases, the rate of cannabis use among pregnant women varied considerably. In a large U.S. population-based study, nearly four percent of women self-reported using cannabis within the past month, while seven percent self-reported using cannabis within the past year.

Pregnant cannabis users were more likely to be under the age of 25, unemployed, single or uninsured, African American, and to have low income and education or use other substances such as tobacco and alcohol. A diagnosis of anxiety or depression was also associated with cannabis use during pregnancy.

As for patterns of use, the researchers found that cannabis use rates were highest during the first trimester (7.4 percent) and lowest during the third trimester (1.8 percent). Most pregnant users reported using cannabis to treat nausea early in their pregnancy.

Well, the health effects of cannabis are limited, some studies have shown an increased risk of problems for pregnant women, including anemia, low birth weight, stillbirth and newborn admission to the neonatal intensive care unit. Having concern on this, many professional organizations, including the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, recommend women not use cannabis when trying to conceive, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Lead author Hamideh Bayrampour, assistant professor in the UBC department of family practice said, “One of our review findings revealed that some people don’t consider cannabis to be a drug. With this in mind, it’s especially important for health care providers to ask specific questions about cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding to help spark a productive conversation about the potential health impacts and to help support women in their decision to reduce use and quit.”

The findings are outlined in a new review, published in the journal Preventive Medicine.