Study Warns Pregnant Women Off Marijuana As Stress Reliever

As the recreational use of marijuana becomes more common, providers warn that consumption of the substance may have dangerous side-effects during pregnancy.

The new study discovered that women who experienced more stressful life events in the year before childbirth had greater odds of marijuana use before and during pregnancy.

Researchers note that although relatively little is known about the health effects of using marijuana during pregnancy, studies have shown that its use may increase the chances of adverse birth outcomes, such as low birth weight, admission to the NICU and also may increase risk of miscarriage and negatively impact the developing brain.

Current clinical recommendations suggest women abstain from use marijuana during pregnancy or during breastfeeding. The advice is similar to that of alcohol consumption – to avoid during pregnancy – although there is some evidence that small amounts of alcohol may be OK during the first trimester.

In the study, researchers from the University of Arizona Department of Family and Community Medicine explored the connection between stressful life events and marijuana use in women; before, during and after pregnancy.

They discovered that women who reported their husband/partner lost his job in the past year were at 81 percent more likely to use marijuana before pregnancy and 119 percent more likely to continue to use marijuana during pregnancy, compared to women whose husband/partner experienced no job loss.

The study appears in the journal Addiction.

“We know that adverse childhood events increase the risk of substance abuse in a wide range of people, including pregnant women,” said lead author, Alicia Allen, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, UA Department of Family and Community Medicine.

“However, this is the first study looking at more recent stressful events, such as having a sick family member, financial problems or domestic problems, to name just a few,” Allen said.

“More research is needed to identify effective interventions to reduce marijuana use during the perinatal period, and our research indicates that targeting stressful events— such as providing interventions and trainings to alleviate stressors — may be fruitful.”

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.

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