One-third of pregnant women don’t believe cannabis could harm their baby, despite studies showing a higher chance of anemia, low birth weight and even stillbirth.
The findings come from a review published by University of B.C. researchers in the February edition of Preventative Medicine.
Researchers looked at six U.S. studies and found some women think because doctors don’t outright tell them about the risks of pot use while pregnant, there is no danger to using it.
The review was conducted because more and more jurisdictions have legalized cannabis use, including Canada and several states such as Oregon, Colorado and Washington, with Mexico also moving to legalize it in the coming months.
“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 lead author Hamideh Bayrampour, assistant professor in the UBC department of family practice and affiliate investigator at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.
“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.”
In one study, 70 per cent of cannabis-using women thought there was no danger to using cannabis while pregnant.
When women were asked what substances were most likely to hurt the baby, 70 per cent chose alcohol and 16 per cent chose tobacco, while only two per cent chose pot.
One study of 306 pregnant women found one-third of them continue to use cannabis after finding out they were pregnant, often to treat nausea.
Rates of cannabis use did decline throughout pregnancy, with 7.4 per cent of women using it in the first trimester but only 1.8 per cent using it in the last trimester.
“One of our review findings revealed that some people don’t consider cannabis to be a drug,” said Bayrampour.
“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.”