A recent Canadian study revealed a surprising number of women consider it OK to use marijuana while pregnant.
A team of researchers at the University of British Columbia conducted an integrative review of six studies on cannabis use during pregnancy with the goal of gaining a better, more cohesive understanding of women’s perspectives.
Published in the journal of Preventative Medicine, their findings reveal that approximately one-third of pregnant women do not believe cannabis is harmful to fetal development.
“Our research suggests that, over the past decade, more women seem to be using cannabis during pregnancy than ever before, even though evidence of its safety is limited and conflicting,” said Hamideh Bayrampour, lead author and assistant professor in the University of B.C. department of family practice. “As many jurisdictions around the world, including Canada, legalize cannabis, it’s becoming increasingly important for public health officials to understand perceptions of cannabis use and to increase awareness of the health concerns around its use, especially for pregnant women.”
Although the studies reviewed contained data from the United States, researchers believe the information is crucial to Canadian healthcare providers now that marijuana has been legalized.
Of the women surveyed, many said chose to use cannabis during pregnancy to cope with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety rather than taking pharmaceutical drugs. Others attributed their use to helping ease symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea.
Although this area of research is still in its infancy, there have been several studies that reveal marijuana use during pregnancy harms fetal development. Some findings attribute cannabis to low birth weight and premature birth, as well as hyperactivity and other learning disorders in childhood.
“One of our review findings revealed that some people don’t consider cannabis to be a drug,” Bayrampour noted. “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 official stance by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada is for pregnant women to abstain from cannabis while trying to conceive, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.