Pregnant Women in California Are Using More Cannabis, Study Says

The sharpest increase in use was with women who weren't pregnant yet.


The use of cannabis among women in California has been on the rise, according to a new study. And even pregnancy doesn’t stop all of them, apparently.

Pregnant Women Are Using More Cannabis Before and After Pregnancy

Published in the JAMA Network Open journal Friday, the study looks at the pregnancies of more than 276,000 women who received coverage from healthcare company Kaiser Permanente Northern California between 2009 and 2017. The researchers found that the use of cannabis increased both before and during pregnancy in this period.

The increase isn’t as stark during pregnancy—1.95 percent to 3.38 percent—but it’s more dramatic before—6.8 percent to 12.5 percent of the women sampled. And the increase can be seen in daily, weekly, and monthly cannabis use. The authors hypothesize that this shift in behavior may be related to the normalization of cannabis use, as well as the growing knowledge around actual harms from cannabis.

Research Not Conclusive

Now, cannabis use during pregnancy still remains a big, shiny question mark. A lot of research, however, hasn’t painted the best picture: from the potential for psychosis to brain malformations. A lot of this research is just beginning, though, so it’s not conclusive. Not yet. So women who plan to smoke while pregnant should exhibit serious caution until the impacts are fully understood.

The women sampled in this study represent the realities of many women, however. The sample is diverse with a range of ages represented, as well as ethnicities. Most of the women were white, 25 to 34-year-olds, but a little diversity is always better than none, which is all too common in cannabis studies. The study authors do note that cannabis use before and during pregnancy was most common among the younger participants, black participants, and/or those with a lower income. The study is based on self-reported data, so there’s always a chance that patients are misreporting by accident or, well, lying on purpose. That’s a major limitation to the study as individuals may underreport their usage.

Authors Speculate Reason For Increase

Cannabis use during pregnancy may be a result of all the shittiness women feel during pregnancy. There’s nausea, but also the stress. The study authors speculate if the symptoms related to pregnancy have anything to do with this rise, as well.

There’s still a lot for them to examine, but this study offers a strong starting point, especially given the large sample of women it included. What they’ve gotta figure out now is the impact all this is having on women who smoke. A related commentary in the journal notes that there’s enough we don’t know for health professionals to advise pregnant women to take a break from the herb while they’re pregnant.

After all, if you can’t ensure your baby’s safety, then why not wait until it’s just your body you have to worry about. Then, you can smoke all the weed you want.

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