Do You Support More Prenatal Research?

A study published in Frontiers in Pediatrics looked at the relationship between marijuana use and fetal growth during pregnancy. The big takeaway from this prenatal research was that it “found a significant health impact of marijuana use on fetal development as early as the beginning of pregnancy.”

It likely comes as no surprise that a psychoactive drug can affect fetal health. But, understanding exactly how and why is a different story, especially when it comes to research related to pregnancy. “People can often be well into the first trimester and don’t even know they are pregnant …” said Beth Bailey, PhD, professor of psychology and director of population health research at the College of Medicine at Central Michigan University, and lead author of this study. Additionally, studies directly involving pregnancy are relatively uncommon. So, prenatal research like this study is quite important for understanding how to best care for pregnant people. But what do actual healthcare professionals think?

We asked the Figure 1 community for their thoughts about prenatal research. Here is what more than 300 HCPs had to say.

How Do You Discuss Cannabis With Your Pregnant Patients?

We asked the Figure 1 community if they speak with their patients who are pregnant, or planning to be, about their cannabis use. Thirty-six percent of our respondents said this was not applicable to them. But of those who this question was applicable to, 81% said yes, they do speak to their pregnant patients about cannabis use, and 19% said no.

Should There Be More Prenatal Research?

We asked the Figure 1 community if they wanted to see more studies about prenatal cannabis use. The majority (80%) said yes, 8% said no, and the remaining 12% were unsure. Additionally, when we asked our respondents if they support more research about prenatal health in general, 96% said yes. Only 1% said no and the remaining 3% were unsure.

It is quite clear that most healthcare professionals want to see more prenatal research, including how ingested substances affect pregnant patients. One respondent said, “All possible prenatal research should be done.”

What are HCPs Thoughts?

So what prenatal research are HCPs interested in? One respondent said they would love to see more studies on cannabis “inhalation of it to ingestion.” Another respondent asked, “I would imagine that vaping is also harmful … Is there any study about it?” While another said they would want to see a “comparison of social structures and prenatal/neonatal health among developed nations.”

Of course, HCPs want to see more prenatal research. But, actually conducting ethical studies with pregnant patients — especially involving substance use — may prove challenging. 

Overall, the community seemed to agree that retrospective studies may offer the best, and most ethical, insight. One respondent said that “a randomized trial would be unethical, but a retrospective cohort study or something might be useful.” Another respondent agreed, saying, “Using pregnant subjects has a dangerous risk. However, a retrospective study may be very useful especially if the individual records all activities and ingestions during the pregnancy.”

Published August 28, 2023

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