Trends in Cannabis Polysubstance Use During Early Pregnancy Among Patients in a Large Health Care System in Northern California

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



JAMA network open








Importance: Rates of prenatal cannabis use are increasing alongside perceptions that cannabis is a harmless therapeutic for pregnancy-related ailments, while rates of prenatal use of alcohol and tobacco are decreasing. It is important to examine whether cannabis use during pregnancy is increasing similarly among patients with and patients without co-occurring substance use. Objectives: To examine trends in cannabis polysubstance use during pregnancy and to test differences in cannabis use over time among pregnant individuals who use only cannabis vs those who use cannabis and other substances. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional time-series study used data from 367 138 pregnancies among 281 590 unique pregnant patients universally screened for prenatal substance use as part of standard care in Kaiser Permanente Northern California from January 1, 2009, to December 31, 2018. Statistical analysis was performed from October 5, 2021, to April 18, 2022. Exposures: Time (calendar year). Main Outcomes and Measures: Use of substances during early pregnancy was assessed via universal screening with a self-administered questionnaire (for cannabis, alcohol, stimulants, and nicotine) and/or positive results of a urine toxicology test (for cannabis, alcohol, stimulants, and pharmaceutical opioids), and data were extracted from the electronic health record. Results: The study sample of 367 138 pregnancies from 281 590 unique pregnant patients (median gestation at time of screening, 8.6 weeks [IQR, 7.3-10.6 weeks]) was 25.9% Asian or Pacific Islander, 6.6% Black, 25.8% Hispanic, 38.0% non-Hispanic White, and 3.6% other race or ethnicity; 1.1% were aged 11 to 17 years, 14.9% were aged 18 to 24 years, 61.9% were aged 25 to 34 years, and 22.1% were aged 35 years or older; and the median neighborhood household income was $70 455 (IQR, $51 563-$92 625). From 2009 to 2018, adjusted rates of use of only cannabis during pregnancy (no other substances) increased substantially from 2.39% (95% CI, 2.20%-2.58%) in 2009 to 6.30% (95% CI, 6.00%-6.60%) in 2018, increasing at an annual relative rate of 1.11 (95% CI, 1.10-1.12). The rate of use of cannabis and 1 other substance also increased (annual relative rate, 1.04 [95% CI, 1.03-1.05]), but not as rapidly (P < .001 for difference), while the rate of use of cannabis and 2 or more other substances decreased slightly (annual relative rate, 0.97 [95% CI, 0.96-0.99]). Adjusted rates of prenatal use of cannabis and alcohol (1.04 [95% CI, 1.03-1.06]) and cannabis and stimulants (1.03 [95% CI, 1.01-1.06]) increased over time, while rates of prenatal use of cannabis and nicotine (0.97 [95% CI, 0.96-0.98]) decreased. Conclusions and Relevance: In this cross-sectional time-series study, rates of prenatal cannabis use during early pregnancy increased significantly more rapidly among patients without co-occurring substance use, which could reflect increased acceptability of cannabis and decreased perceptions of cannabis-related harms. Furthermore, increased rates of use of cannabis with alcohol and stimulants warrant continued monitoring.


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