In Brief: Increased Use of Cannabis During Pregnancy, But Little Data on Reproductive Safety

By | June 1, 2019

Despite decreasing rates of alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, the use of cannabis use during pregnancy is on the rise.  According to data collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the use of cannabis in pregnant women aged 18 to 44 years rose from 2.37% in 2002 to 3.85% in 2014 in the United States.  Agarwal notes that 21.1% of pregnant women who used cannabis reported doing so on a daily basis.

It has been difficult to systematically study the impact of cannabis use on pregnancy outcomes and fetal outcomes because its use is illegal in most states.  In addition, certain lifestyle factors, such as the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit substances, are more common in women who use cannabis during pregnancy than in non-users, which makes it difficult to distinguish the impact of cannabis use during pregnancy form other behaviors.  

Nonetheless, multiple studies have raised concerns that cannabis may negatively affect fetal brain development and growth and may be associated with increased risk for preterm labor and stillbirth.  

Ericksen and colleagues also consider the possible impact of paternal marijuana use, which may result to THC accumulation (measurable in blood and urine) in non-users following secondhand smoke exposure. They also note that men who use cannabis regularly may also experience epigenetic changes in sperm cells, although the results of these changes are unknown.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

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Further Studies Needed on Prenatal Maternal and Paternal Cannabis Use (Psychiatry Advisor)

Agrawal A, Rogers CE, Lessov-Schlaggar CN, Carter EB, Lenze SN, Grucza RA. Alcohol, cigarette, and cannabis use between 2002 and 2016 in pregnant women from a nationally representative sample. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(1):95-96.

Agrawal A, Grucza RA, Rogers CE. Public health implications of rising marijuana use in pregnancy in an age of increasing legalization—reply April 8, 2019]. JAMA Pediatr.

Ericksen K, Shah S, Brumberg HL. Public health implications of rising marijuana use in pregnancy in an age of increasing legalization. April 8, 2019. JAMA Pediatr.

MGH Center for Women's Mental Health