Some pregnant women don't believe marijuana is harmful to their fetus – ScienceDaily



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Up to one third of pregnant women do not believe marijuana is harmful to their fetus, according to a new review by UBC researchers.

In some cases, women felt a lack of communication from their health care providers about the risk of cannabis as an indication that the drug was safe to use during pregnancy.

This finding is described in a new review, published in the journal Preventive medicine, where UBC researchers are trying to identify the latest evidence about women's perspectives on the health aspects of cannabis use during pregnancy and postpartum and whether their perceptions influence decision-making about drug use.

"Our research shows that, over the past decade, more women seem to use cannabis during pregnancy than before, although the evidence for safety is limited and contradictory," said lead author Hamideh Bayrampour, assistant professor in UBC's family department of practice and affiliate investigators at BC Children & # 39 ; s Hospital Research Institute. "Because many jurisdictions around the world, including Canada, legalize marijuana, it is becoming increasingly important for public health officials to understand perceptions about cannabis use and to raise awareness of health issues surrounding their use, especially for pregnant women."

For the review, the researchers identified six studies, all carried out in the United States, which looked at women's perceptions of marijuana use during pregnancy.

In all studies, the rate of marijuana use among pregnant women varies greatly. In a large US-based study, nearly four percent of women reported marijuana use in the past month, while seven percent reported marijuana use in the past year. However, in another study that looked at researchers also testing hair and urine samples, the rate of marijuana use increased to 28 percent.

Cannabis users who are pregnant are more likely to be under 25 years old, unemployed, single or uninsured, African-American, and have low income and education, or use other substances such as tobacco and alcohol. Diagnosis of anxiety or depression is also associated with marijuana use during pregnancy.

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

In one study involving 306 pregnant women, 35 percent reported being marijuana users when they realized they were pregnant. Two-thirds of the women stopped after learning that they were pregnant, but among those who continued to use marijuana, half reported using almost every day or twice a week.

When women were asked about their perceptions of the general dangers associated with cannabis use, 70 percent of pregnant and non-pregnant marijuana users answered that they felt little or no risk of danger. In another study, when asked if they believed marijuana was harmful to babies during pregnancy, 30 percent of pregnant women answered "no." When women are asked to identify substances that are most likely to harm the baby during pregnancy, 70 percent choose alcohol and 16 percent choose tobacco, while only two percent choose marijuana.

While research on the health effects of marijuana is limited, several studies have shown an increased risk of problems for pregnant women, including anemia, low birth weight, stillbirth and newborns entering the neonatal intensive care unit. Because of the risk of potential problems, many professional organizations, including the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, recommend women not to use marijuana when trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

However, some women reported that not having special counseling provided about the risk of cannabis use showed that the drug was safe.

"One of the findings of our review revealed that some people did not consider marijuana as a drug," Bayrampour said. "With this in mind, it is very important for health care providers to ask specific questions about cannabis use during pregnancy and lactation to help trigger productive conversations about potential health impacts and to help support women in their decisions to reduce use and stop."

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