Cannabis perceptions lax among pregnant patients, survey reveals

Cannabis pregnancy perceptions

Being pregnant is an experience that pushes the body to its limits. Doctors often prescribe measured quantities of over-the-counter medicine for things like nausea or migraines. Psychiatrists also work with patients to lower antidepressant dosage and other mental health pharmaceuticals while growing the baby. But medical cannabis patients are expected to stop consuming when they get pregnant.

As more states legalize the plant, pregnant patients continue to experiment for persistent nausea, depression, and other conditions that can negatively impact a pregnancy. One survey recently published in Obstetrics & Gynecology supports this.

Perceptions about cannabis and pregnancy

Researchers wanted to understand why pregnant patients choose cannabis and how safe they consider the plant. They accomplished this by surveying patients in Northern California from November to December 2021. The secondary outcome was to unveil how race, specifically whiteness versus Blackness, altered these perceptions.

It should be noted that this study took place in Northern California, where cannabis acceptance is half a century deep. Results in states with harsh cannabis prohibition or even new medical programs might yield opposing results.

A total of 53 patients averaging a 20-week gestation were organized into 18 virtual focus groups to discover a few things. The average age of the cohort was 30, and of the 53 respondents, 30 self-identified as white, and 23 self-identified as Black. All patients self-reported cannabis use before being accepted into the study.

The patients were paired with physicians of the same race to answer semi-structured questions. Responses were recorded, transcribed, and coded for thematic analysis. This method of data analysis takes the researcher’s subjective experience into account. They use a series of semi-structured questions and respond to patterns or themes as the interview develops.

Pregnant patients and cannabis consumption

Almost 70 percent of responding pregnant patients consumed cannabis daily when they first entered prenatal care. Another 25 percent reported weekly cannabis use, and six percent were using cannabis monthly when they found out they were pregnant. From that point, researchers saw patients go in two directions.

“Although some participants quit cannabis use in early pregnancy because of concerns about potential health risks, many perceived a lack of scientific evidence or believed that prenatal cannabis use was safe,” the study reads.

Of the patients that continued consuming, many preferred to use cannabis for morning sickness, pain, sleep, and mood imbalances instead of over-the-counter medications. They desired relevant information about risks through educational materials like pamphlets. This group also appreciated open conversations with medical providers that didn’t judge their cannabis consumption.

As for racial bias, most white and Black patients reported a similar experience. Though a few Black patients reported experiencing racial bias.

Based on this limited study, it appears that in legal states, pregnant people are not only comfortable consuming cannabis, they feel the plant is safer than over-the-counter medications.

Coming to conclusions

Researchers conclude that medical professionals providing prenatal care should be engaging in patient-centric conversations about cannabis consumption. According to the study authors, these conversations should be used to urge pregnant patients to stop consuming. These conversations can also be used to recommend approved interventions for symptoms patients are treating with cannabis.

The catch is that there is very little science-based research on how anything affects pregnant people, whether it’s from a cannabis dispensary or over-the-counter at the pharmacy. This may fuel some distrust expressed by patients in this study. It could also be the foundation for how little is really known about prenatal cannabis consumption.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.