Even as alcohol and tobacco use continue to decline among pregnant women in the U.S., a new study offers fresh evidence that more American mothers are using cannabis during pregnancy.
Other recent studies have also documented a rise in cannabis use among pregnant women of all ages, with some evidence of particularly sharp increases for teens and young adults. For the current study, researchers analyzed the proportion of pregnant women who used alcohol, tobacco or cannabis from 2002 to 2016.
Overall, the odds that pregnant women would use cannabis rose 3 percent a year during the study period, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics. The increases were only seen in the first trimester and were most pronounced for women ages 26 to 44 and with at least a high school education.
Over the same period, the odds that pregnant women would use alcohol decreased two percent a year and the odds for cigarette use dropped three percent a year.
“Our findings are a reminder that while we are doing a decent job of discouraging pregnant women from using alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy, the message regarding potential adverse effects of cannabis exposure during pregnancy on fetal development is not getting out there,” said lead study author Arpana Agrawal of Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis.
The proportion of pregnant women using cannabis rose from less than 3 percent in 2002 to almost five percent by 2016, the study found.
During this period, the proportion of pregnant women using alcohol fell from about 10 percent to about 8 percent, and the proportion using cigarettes dropped from about 18 percent to about 10 percent.