Trends and Characteristics of Prenatal Cannabis Use in the U.S., 2002–2019

  • Omayma Alshaarawy
    Address correspondence to: Omayma Alshaarawy, MBBS, PhD, Department of Family Medicine, Michigan State University, 788 Service Road, East Lansing MI 48824.
    Department of Family Medicine, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
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  • Alyssa Vanderziel
    Department of Family Medicine, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

    Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
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      The prevalence of prenatal cannabis use has nearly doubled in the U.S. from 2002 to 2017. As cannabis legalization continues to expand, this study aimed to estimate the recent trends in the prevalence of cannabis use, cannabis dependence, and cannabis risk perceptions among U.S. pregnant people.


      The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2002–2019) was designed to be representative of the U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population. The study sample included pregnant participants (aged 12–44 years; n=15,109). Cannabis consumption was defined as using cannabis at least once in the 30 days before assessment. Past 12‒month cannabis dependence was defined on the basis of the DSM-IV. Joinpoint regression was used to test for significant changes in the trends while controlling for age, race/ethnicity, and family income. Analyses were conducted between August 2021 and April 2022.


      No evidence of change in the prevalence of prenatal cannabis use was detected between 2016–2017 (5.8%) and 2018–2019 (4.7%) (prevalence difference= −1.1; 95% CI= −2.9, 0.7). The prevalence of cannabis dependence did not change significantly among pregnant people from 2002 to 2019. The percentage of pregnant people perceiving regular cannabis use (1–2 times/week) as a great risk remained stable from 2002 to 2007 (∼53%) and declined sharply after (27%).


      Three of 4 pregnant people in the U.S. do not characterize regular cannabis use as a great risk. As cannabis legalization increases, public health efforts are needed to raise awareness of the possible harms associated with cannabis use.
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