Marijuana use in pregnancy: A review

Rebecca Thompson, Katherine Dejong, Jamie Lo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Importance Marijuana is the most commonly used dependent substance in pregnancy. The main active chemical of marijuana (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]) readily crosses the placenta, and cannabinoid receptors have been identified in fetal brain and placenta. As a result, prenatal marijuana use could potentially have detrimental impact on fetal development. Objective This review aims to summarize the existing literature and current recommendations for marijuana use while pregnant or lactating. Evidence Acquisition A PubMed literature search using the following terms was performed to gather relevant data: "cannabis," "cannabinoids," "marijuana," "fetal outcomes," "perinatal outcomes," "pregnancy," "lactation." Results Available studies on marijuana exposure in pregnancy were reviewed and support some degree of developmental disruption, including an increased risk of fetal growth restriction and adverse neurodevelopmental consequences. However, much of the existing prenatal marijuana research was performed in the 1980s, when quantities of THC were lower and the frequency of use was less. Additionally, most human studies are also limited and conflicting as most studies have been observational or retrospective, relying primarily on patient self-report and confounded by polysubstance abuse and small sample sizes, precluding determination of a causal effect specific for marijuana. Given the paucity of evidence, it is currently recommended to avoid using marijuana while pregnant or when breastfeeding. Conclusion and Relevance There is a critical need for research on effects in pregnancy using present-day THC doses. Once the adverse perinatal effects of marijuana exposure are identified and well characterized, patient education and antenatal surveillance can be developed to predict and mitigate its impact on maternal and fetal health. Target Audience Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians. Learning Objectives After participating in this activity, the provider should be better able to counsel patients regarding prenatal marijuana use; assess patients during pregnancy for marijuana use; and explain recommendations regarding marijuana use while breastfeeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-428
Number of pages14
JournalObstetrical and Gynecological Survey
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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