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More than 10% of HIV-infected pregnant women use marijuana — up from 7% in 2007, study shows


Marijuana use among pregnant women infected with HIV has increased over the past decade, a new study suggests.

Researchers surveyed women with the condition, who were expecting babies or had recently given birth, about their substance use.

They found that more than 10 percent of mothers-to-be with HIV reported using cannabis, compared to seven percent who reported doing the same in 2007.

The team, led by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says the findings suggest future studies are needed to find out why marijuana use has increased among pregnant women, as more states legalize recreational marijuana.

A new study led by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine looked at 2,310 women with HIV who were pregnant or had given birth less than a year ago from 2007 to 2019 (file image)

For the study, published in JAMA Network Open, the team collected data from the Surveillance Monitoring for Antiretroviral Toxicities (SMARTT) study of the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Women with HIV who were pregnant or who had given birth less than a year ago were enrolled between January 1, 2007 and July 1, 2019/

In the US, more than 1.2 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, the virus that leads to the potentially deadly disease AIDS.

About 13 percent with HIV do not know they have the virus.

Once a person contracts HIV, the virus begins to attack and destroy the immune cells that normally protect the body from infection.

It’s not known how many U.S. women with HIV give birth each year, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests it’s less than 5,000.

The survey asked the women about their use of various substances, including marijuana, alcohol, opioids, and concomitant alcohol and marijuana.

Data was collected from 2,926 pregnancies of 2,310 women with HIV.

Researchers found that in 2019, 11.7 percent of pregnant women with HIV used marijuana.

That is an increase from the 7.1 percent who reported the same in 2007.

However, the use of alcohol and opioids during pregnancy remained stable over the 12-year study period.

In addition, marijuana use among postpartum women increased from 10.2 percent in 2007 to 23.7 percent in 2019.

The use of marijuana is sometimes recommended in pregnant women to relieve symptoms such as nausea.

However, several studies have suggested that marijuana use in pregnant women can be harmful to the health of babies.

An August 2020 study found that women who use marijuana during pregnancy are almost twice as likely to give birth to a child with autism.

In 2019, 11.7% of pregnant women with HIV used marijuana, compared to 7% in 2007, but alcohol consumption remained the same (above)

In 2019, 11.7% of pregnant women with HIV used marijuana, compared to 7% in 2007, but alcohol consumption remained the same (above)

And a separate September 2020 study found that children exposed to cannabis in utero were more likely to experience psychotic behaviors, such as delusions and hallucinations.

“While opioid use among pregnant people with HIV was stable, marijuana use increased in this cohort, and the legalization of medical marijuana may be associated with increased marijuana use in this population,” the authors wrote.

“These patterns of increasing marijuana use among pregnant and postpartum people living with HIV warrant increased clinical attention given the potential health implications of substance use for mothers and children.

“These results suggest that future research should examine postpartum opioid use, the longitudinal patterns of use from pregnancy to postpartum, and the association of use with extensive recreational legalization of marijuana.”


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