Most people know that alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. In contrast, using marijuana while pregnant represents more of a gray area–studies have shown that women rarely receive counseling on marijuana use from their healthcare providers (Bayrampour et al, Prev Med, 2019).
Although marijuana may seem less dangerous to use while pregnant compared to a substance such as alcohol, we know several things for certain. First, marijuana is capable of crossing the placenta during pregnancy, which means it can enter your unborn child’s circulation and impact fetal development. Second, marijuana can be found in breast milk, meaning it can have effects on the health of your child even after they’ve been born.
So, how common is marijuana use during pregnancy?
Studies have shown that marijuana is one of the most commonly used substances during pregnancy, with anywhere between 2-5% of all pregnant women reporting some degree of marijuana use while pregnant (Committee on Obstetric Practice, Obstet Gynecol, 2017).
Furthermore, rates of marijuana use have been increasing with time–3.85% of women reported marijuana use in pregnancy in 2014, which was a 60% increase since 2002. One particular study found that of those pregnant women who use marijuana, 18.1% met the criteria for Cannabis Use Disorder, indicating that their babies were likely getting exposed to significant levels of the drug (Ko et al, Am J Obstet Gynecol, 2015).
Marijuana’s prevalence amongst pregnant women is especially remarkable when you consider trends in use of other drugs: while rates of alcohol and tobacco use in pregnant women dropped significantly between 2002 and 2017, the prevalence of marijuana use increased (Volkow et al, JAMA, 2019; Agrawal et al, JAMA Pediatr, 2019).