Despite evidence to the contrary, nearly 3 of 4 pregnant women in the United States do not characterize regular cannabis use as a great risk, according to a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. These findings were based on survey responses of more than 15,000 pregnant women aged 12 to 44.
While the data are still emerging, “several studies suggest that marijuana use during pregnancy could be linked to problems with attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior in their children later in life,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Omayma Alshaarawy, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., and Alyssa Vanderziel, M.S., of Michigan State University analyzed data collected between 2002 and 2019 from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that asks participants about tobacco, alcohol, and drug use; mental health; and other health-related issues. The data are extrapolated to the U.S population. The analysis included the responses of 15,109 pregnant women to questions about their cannabis consumption and perception of risk of regular cannabis use.
The authors defined cannabis consumption as the use of cannabis at least once in the past 30 days. To assess perceptions of risk of cannabis use, the participants were asked “How much do people risk harming themselves physically and in other ways when they smoke marijuana once or twice a week?”
The prevalence of prenatal cannabis use nearly doubled from 2002 to 2017, but there was no significant change in the prevalence of prenatal cannabis use between 2016-2017 (5.8%) and 2018-2019 (4.7%), Alshaarawy and Vanderziel reported. The percentage of pregnant women perceiving regular cannabis use as a great risk was about 50% from 2002 to 2007; by 2019, this percentage had dropped to 27%.
The researchers noted that because the question of risk of cannabis use was not specific to prenatal use, it is possible that the participants’ responses “might reflect perceptions of risk related to use among nonpregnant people and not necessarily related to potential harms inflicted on the pregnant mother and/or fetus.”
They concluded, “As cannabis legalization increases, public health efforts are needed to raise awareness of the possible harms associated with cannabis use.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Cannabis Use During Pregnancy on the Rise.”
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