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Patient Perceptions of Prenatal Cannabis Use and Implications for Clinicians

To understand pregnant patients’ reasons for prenatal cannabis use and perceptions of safety, desired and undesirable health care experiences, and desired information about prenatal cannabis use and secondarily to understand racial differences in these perceptions and preferences. We conducted a qualitative study including 18 semi-structured, race-concordant virtual focus groups with pregnant individuals who self-reported cannabis use at prenatal care entry in a large integrated health care system in Northern California from November 2021 to December 2021. The focus groups included semi-structured questions that were recorded, transcribed, and coded by the research team. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data. Overall, 53 participants were included; 30 self-identified, as White and 23 self-identified as Black. Participants averaged 30.3 years of age (SD 5.2 years) and were on average at 20.9 weeks of gestation at study enrollment; 69.8% reported daily cannabis use, 24.5% reported weekly cannabis use, and 5.7% reported monthly or less cannabis use at entrance to prenatal care. 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. Many preferred cannabis to over-the-counter or prescription medications for treating mood, morning sickness, pain, and sleep. Participants valued open interactions with obstetricians that acknowledged their motivations for use, and they desired information about potential risks through conversations and educational materials. White and Black participants’ perspectives were generally similar, but a few Black participants uniquely described concerns about racial bias related to their prenatal cannabis use. Pregnant patients used cannabis to manage mood and medical symptoms, and many believed that prenatal cannabis use was safer than the use of prescription medications. Obstetrician-initiated, patient-centered conversations around prenatal cannabis use, advice to discontinue cannabis use during pregnancy, and exploration of willingness to switch to medically recommended interventions for pregnancy-related symptoms may benefit patients.

Authors: Foti, Tara R;Green, Andrea;Altschuler, Andrea;Iturralde, Esti;Does, Monique B;Jackson-Morris, Melanie;Adams, Sara R;Goler, Nancy;Ansley, Deborah;Conway, Amy;Young-Wolff, Kelly C

Obstet Gynecol. 2023 Aug 10.

PubMed abstract

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