(HealthDay News) — Rates of biochemically verified prenatal cannabis use increased significantly among pregnant women in Northern California during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kelly C Young-Wolff, PhD, MPH, from Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, and colleagues analyzed data for all pregnant women in the health system screened for prenatal cannabis use via a universal urine toxicology test (2019 through 2020) during standard prenatal care (at about 8 weeks of gestation). The analysis included 100,005 pregnancies among 95,412 women.

The researchers found that before the pandemic, the standardized rate of prenatal cannabis use was 6.75% of pregnancies, which increased to 8.14% of pregnancies during the pandemic. Compared with the 15 months before the pandemic, prenatal cannabis use increased by 25% during the pandemic. Rates before and during the pandemic were stable, with no statistically significant month-to-month trends.


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“Prenatal cannabis use is associated with health risks, including low infant birth weight and potential effects on offspring neurodevelopment,” the authors write. “Clinicians should educate pregnant women about the harms of prenatal cannabis use, support women to quit, and provide resources for stress reduction.”

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