Cannabis and pregnancy: Maternal child health implications during a period of drug policy liberalization

Prev Med. 2017 Nov;104:46-49. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.05.012. Epub 2017 May 18.


Cannabis use is common and increasing among women in the United States. State policies are changing with a movement towards decriminalization and legalization. We explore the implications of cannabis liberalization for maternal and child health. Most women who use cannabis quit or cut back during pregnancy. Although women are concerned about the possible health effects of cannabis, providers do a poor job of counseling. There is a theoretical potential for cannabis to interfere with neurodevelopment, however human data have not identified any long-term or long lasting meaningful differences between children exposed in utero to cannabis and those not. Scientifically accurate dissemination of cannabis outcomes data is necessary. Risks should be neither overstated nor minimized, and the legal status of a substance should not be equated with safety. Decreasing or stopping use of all recreational drugs should be encouraged during pregnancy. Providers must recognize that even in environments where cannabis is legal, pregnant women may end up involved with Child Protective Services. In states where substance use is considered child abuse this may be especially catastrophic. Above all, care for pregnant women who use cannabis should be non-punitive and grounded in respect for patient autonomy.

Keywords: Cannabis; Maternal child health; Pregnancy; Public policy.

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Drug*
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Maternal Health
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology
  • Public Policy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders