Understanding Trends in Marijuana Use among Women of Reproductive Age

January 10, 2017

Deborah S. Hasin, Ph.D and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center used data from women ages 18 through 44 years from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2002 through 2014 to determine whether marijuana use has changed over time among pregnant and nonpregnant reproductive-aged women.  Trends in Marijuana Use Among Pregnant and Nonpregnant Reproductive-Aged Women, 2002-2014 was published in JAMA on January 10, 2017.

Between 2001 and 2013, marijuana use among U.S. adults more than doubled, many states legalized marijuana use, and attitudes toward marijuana became more permissive.  In aggregated 2007-2012 data, 3.9 percent of pregnant women and 7.6 percent of nonpregnant reproductive-aged women reported past-month marijuana use. Although the evidence is mixed, human and animal studies suggest that prenatal marijuana exposure may be associated with poor offspring outcomes (e.g., low birth weight, impaired neurodevelopment). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy be screened for and discouraged from using marijuana  and  other substances.

Of the 200,510 women analyzed, 29.5 percent were ages 18 through 25 years and 70.5 percent were ages 26 through 44 years; 5.3 percent (n = 10,587) were pregnant. Among all pregnant women, the prevalence of past-month marijuana use increased from 2.4 percent in 2002 to 3.9 percent in 2014, an increase of 62 percent. The prevalence of past-month marijuana use was highest among those ages 18 to 25 years, reaching 7.5 percent in 2014, significantly higher than among those ages 26 to 44 years (2.1 percent). However, increases over time did not differ by age. Past-year use was higher overall, reaching 11.6 percent in 2014, with similar trends over time. In nonpregnant women, prevalences of past-month use (2014: 9.3 percent) and past-year use (2014: 16 percent) were higher overall, with similar trends over time. Increases over time in past-month marijuana use did not differ by pregnancy status.

“These results offer an important step toward understanding trends in marijuana use among women of reproductive age. Although the prevalence of past-month use among pregnant women (3.85 percent) is not high, the increases over time and potential adverse consequences of prenatal marijuana exposure suggest further monitoring and research are warranted. To ensure optimal maternal and child health, practitioners should screen and counsel pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy about prenatal marijuana use,” the authors write.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.

Funding/Support: This work was supported by grants T32DA031099 (Drs Brown and Hasin [program director]), R01DA037866 (Dr Martins), and R01DA034244 (Dr Hasin) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (Hasin, Wall).


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