1. Macario, Everly ScD, MS, EdM
  2. Thomas, Rosita M. PhD


Objective: To understand reproductive-aged women's marijuana use beliefs and attitudes.


Methods: Qualitative research (10 focus groups and 2 bulletin boards) with 95 Washington State women, aged 18 to 44 years, segmented by marijuana-using pregnant/breastfeeding; marijuana-using not-pregnant/breastfeeding; and nonmarijuana users. Participants completed up to 10 survey questions. We used deductive and inductive coding to analyze findings.


Results: Marijuana-using pregnant/breastfeeding participants use marijuana to manage physical/mental pain and because of stigma, feel guilty, and sometimes hide use. Medicines have failed to address symptoms. Participants perceived marijuana safer than alcohol, tobacco, and illicit substances. Participants believed in the legitimacy of marijuana for health maintenance and want others to take their personally experienced benefits seriously. Participants interpreted lack of conclusive research as marijuana use not being unsafe. They want more information. All segments preferred hearing from other women about marijuana use experiences, with the marijuana-using pregnant/breastfeeding segment feeling strongest about this.


Conclusions: Personal experiences with, and anecdotes from family/friends about, the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy/breastfeeding influence marijuana-using participants' decision making.


Nursing Implications: It is important to speak with perinatal patients in a nonjudgmental/nonthreatening manner that acknowledges why reproductive-aged women may use marijuana and that conveys validation of patients' positive experiences with marijuana and a harm-reduction goal.