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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.”

Using data from the 2016 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), the research team analyzed the self-reported responses from more than 6,000 women in Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Michigan and Washington. From the responses, approximately 6.4% of women reported using marijuana before, during or after pregnancy.

One finding that surprised the research team was that self-reported marijuana use during pregnancy increased about 35% between 2011 to 2016 — from approximately 4.2% to 6.4%.

“It’s possible that the legalization of marijuana use and increases in social acceptability may contribute to increased marijuana use during pregnancy,” Allen said. “But this is speculation, so future research is needed to fully understand this increase.”

“As marijuana use continues to become more common, additional research is needed to identify all of the health effects for both mother and child, as well as to identify ways to help women abstain from marijuana use during pregnancy,” Allen said.

Source: University of Arizona Department of Family and Community Medicine

Study Warns Pregnant Women Off Marijuana As Stress Reliever

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Study Warns Pregnant Women Off Marijuana As Stress Reliever. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 26 Feb 2020 (Originally: 26 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 26 Feb 2020
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