Oral or Poster Presentation
Concurrent Session 1A - Perinatal Epidemiology
Introduction: Prenatal cannabis use is associated with increased risks of preterm birth, low birth-weight, neonatal intensive care unit admission, maternal anemia and sub-optimal breastfeeding. Despite evidence for its risks, cannabis use among pregnant Canadians is on the rise. Little is known about the attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of risk among Canadians who use cannabis during pregnancy, making effective intervention and education difficult.
Methods: We conducted a qualitative thematic analysis study exploring the attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of safety of prenatal cannabis use among pregnant women from Alberta, Canada, recruited via targeted social media advertising. We conducted recorded and transcribed 8 in-depth individual interviews (IDIs), and triangulated data with written comments received in response to our social media recruitment advertisements. We analysed transcripts and commentary emergent thematic analysis and constant comparison, wherein concepts are highlighted and grouped into categories until 3-5 overarching themes emerge.
Results: Eight women completed IDIs, and member checking, and 300 women contributed social media comments. Five themes emerged: 1)Perceived medical benefit; 2)Perception of physician approval of antenatal cannabis use; 3)Distrust of the medical system/science/pharmaceutical companies; 4)It’s safer than other substances/medications; 5)Uneventful past prenatal use - “My kids are fine, so it’s safe”. Nausea and loss of appetite were the most common conditions perceived to benefit from cannabis. Stories of use in past pregnancies with healthy children were prevalent, and in some instances, observed negative outcomes (e.g. LBW, learning disability) were actively dissociated form cannabis exposure.
Conclusion: Albertans who use cannabis in pregnancy have a strong belief in the medical benefits and safety of cannabis, combined with distrust of doctors and the medical system. Perceived physician approval of use suggests a need for improved prenatal health messaging. Further research into methods to effectively communicate with prenatal cannabis users are needed, to mitigate potential maternal and child health risks.