While many people would agree that it’s bad to smoke tobacco while pregnant, there are mixed perceptions about using cannabis.
Washington State University researchers are trying to figure out why, along with studying other cannabis-related issues.
“We just want to capture as many women’s experiences as possible,” said Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, Ph.D., associate dean for research and director of the school’s Program of Excellence in Addictions Research.
Barbosa-Leiker is leading two studies using volunteers as study subjects: pregnant women or women who have recently given birth and used cannabis while pregnant. Other WSU studies involving other marijuana issues are also using volunteer participants.
According to information provided by WSU, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug among pregnant women, and usage during pregnancy has increased nationally in recent years.
Studies show that using pot while pregnant can interfere with neurodevelopment and increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction in children. Despite this, research says nearly three out of every four women believes there is no risk to using it while pregnant. Why is unknown.
“That’s one of the things that we would like to know,” said Barbosa-Leiker.
Her first study, on cannabis use during pregnancy and post-partum, examines the multi-generational effects of cannabis use by women while pregnant. It will examine parental bonding, birth satisfaction, and anxiety and parenting stress in women who use marijuana while pregnant.
The study asks subjects to fill out questionnaires at the beginning of the study and return for more questioning and to be observed interacting with their babies after giving birth.
“We are working with the Infant Temperament Lab on the WSU Pullman campus and their expertise is parent-baby interaction,” said Barbosa-Leiker.
campus and their expertise is parent-baby interaction.” Said Barbosa-Leiker.
Dr. Maria Gartstein leads the Infant Temperament lab and is co-leading this study and a second study with Barbosa-Leiker using subjects who admit to using marijuana. The second study will examine the thoughts and beliefs about risks or benefits of cannabis use during pregnancy and soon after giving birth. Participants will take part in an hour-long interview as part of that study.
For their time, volunteers are given $50 or $75 gift cards to Walmart.
Both studies have been under way for about six months, but more volunteers are still needed.
“For the interview piece we’re looking for 20 participants,” Barbosa-Leiker said. “For the second study, we need 40 participants.”
Both the pregnancy studies are expected to finish this summer, then work will begin to analyze data gathered. Around this time next year, the study will be published and results presented at clinical conferences.
Other recent cannabis studies at WSU have looked at the impact of cannabis on chronic pain sufferers; how marijuana interacts with tobacco in the body; how it stimulates appetite; how much marijuana-related media is seen by children and what effect it has on them; and public and professional attitudes toward pot.
Like Barbosa-Leiker’s studies, these also used, or are using, the public as subjects.
“We’ve been using Craigslist (to advertise), WSU has advertised on social media and we haven’t yet but we’re going to start using some of the cannabis stores to put up some of our flyers.”
The two pregnancy research projects, and others involving cannabis conducted in 2018, were funded with state cannabis taxes and liquor license fees through WSU’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Program. That program has distributed 28 cannabis-related research grants in the last three years. All WSU research projects involving marijuana are consistent with federal law.
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