According to the research, pregnant women use marijuana for a variety of reasons such as relieving nausea, anxiety, stress, and depression. Until now, it has been unclear what effect the unique stressors arising from the COVID-19 pandemic have had on prenatal THC exposure at the population level.
A recently published study in JAMA found that marijuana use among pregnant women in Northern California rose dramatically during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study included over 100,000 pregnant women who were screened via universal urine toxicology during their 8 weeks visit as part of Kaiser Permanente’s prenatal care program. After adjusting for age, race, and other confounding variables, investigators found that prenatal marijuana use increased by 25% from January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2020. While the generalizability of the results is perhaps limited to Northern California, it is reasonable to assume similar patterns of use occurred in states where marijuana is readily accessible to pregnant women.
Drug Free America Foundation Epidemiologist Dr. Sharif Mohr commented, “Marijuana use during pregnancy carries a host of risks including pre-term birth, low birth weight and neurocognitive and neurobehavioral deficits occurring in childhood and adolescence. Despite these risks, use of marijuana has more than doubled among pregnant women over the past two decades due to normalization of marijuana use and the liberalization of marijuana laws.”
Dr. Mohr went on to say, “Unfortunately, COVID-19 accelerated this alarming trend due to the stressors and uncertainty associated with the global pandemic. Yet it is a tragic twist of irony that state governments unwittingly contributed to the rise in prenatal THC exposure by deeming for-profit addiction industries as essential. Talk about misaligned priorities!”
Source: Young-Wolff KC, Ray GT, Alexeeff SE, et al. Rates of Prenatal Cannabis Use Among Pregnant Women Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA. Published online September 27, 2021.