AUG 02, 2023 6:00 AM PDT

Reviewing the Increasing Trend of Cannabis Use During Pregnancy

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hoffman

A new review from the University of Colorado discusses the potentially dangerous yet increasing trend of pregnant individuals using cannabis to help with symptoms like nausea and vomiting. While elements like THC and CBD are currently undergoing clinical evaluation for their anti-emetic effects, and some synthetic derivatives are FDA approved to treat nausea and vomiting during cancer treatment, like chemotherapy, cannabis itself can potentially negatively impact fetal health.

The prevalence of pregnant people reporting cannabis use has increased by 62% from 2002 to 2014, with this review reporting between 19 – 22% of patients in Colorado and California testing positive at the time of delivery, with stark differences in usage across socioeconomic groups.

While the research is ongoing, studies have shown that consuming cannabis while pregnant increases the likelihood of admittance to the neonatal intensive care unit as well as the potential for premature delivery in general. Cannabis use during pregnancy has also been linked to the development of ADHD and anxiety later in adolescence.

So why are people still using cannabis when it may be dangerous? Study author Karli Swenson, a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, aims to find out by reviewing recent national research. The results showed a few common themes and rationales as to why a pregnant individual may consume cannabis:

  • To help with pregnancy symptoms like nausea and anxiety,
  • No legal restrictions on selling cannabis to pregnant people,
  • A lack of warnings on products (as there are on alcohol and tobacco products),
  • Online forums spread false information about cannabis safety during pregnancy.

Not only did the study discuss rationales as to why one might use cannabis while pregnant, but also why people may not self-report the use to their doctors, primarily the very real risk of legal repercussions. The risk and stigma are real and likely lead to under-reporting among patients.

Swenson writes that “cannabis consumption is increasing in a pregnant population, that pregnant patients fear legal and medical repercussions of reporting their consumption, and that there are multiple contact points with pregnant patients that could be better utilized to improve patient education.”

You can read the entire review here, including patient and physician recommendations.


Journal of Cannabis Research, JAMA, JAMA (2), Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics,

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Sarah (She/Her) is the Scientific Editor at Labroots. She has a background in science publishing, bioarchaeology & paleopathology, and has worked at archaeological sites throughout the North Atlantic. She received her Ph.D. & M.A. from the University at Buffalo and her MSc. from Durham University.
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