Marijuana Use Increasing in Women with HIV

People living with HIV have used marijuana to manage health issues related to or derived from this disease for a long time. However, marijuana use in this population has increased during the pregnancy and postpartum periods according to a study done from 2007 to 2019. 


People living with HIV reported using marijuana mostly during the first trimester of pregnancy and the postpartum period. The study showed an increase from 7.1% to 11.7% during pregnancy and from 10.2% to 23.7% during the postpartum period. This increase appears to be related to medical marijuana legalization, as recreational marijuana legalization doesn’t seem to have made a significant impact in these numbers.


Although the results aren’t generalizable as this was a limited study (it relied on self-reported marijuana use and the subjects belonged to a limited population), they are concerning. We as OBGYNs need to address this issue with our HIV patients to look for alternative treatments during their prenatal and postpartum care as continuous marijuana use during these periods can potentially cause fetal damage.


According to the Committee on Obstetric Practice,  tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) excretion takes 20-36 hours in occasional users and 4-5 days in heavy users, and there’s data indicating that THC appears in breast milk as well. Several studies have shown that in utero marijuana exposure can cause:

  • Disruption of brain development and function in animal fetuses
  • Decreased attention span and behavioral problems
  • Decreased visual problem solving, visual-motor coordination and visual analysis in children.


It is important to note that the data on these studies have limitations, but the risks of impaired neurodevelopment are concerning enough that marijuana use needs to be discouraged in all pregnant patients and patients who are planning to get pregnant.


At El Camino Women’s Medical Group, it is our commitment to our patients to ensure they have a judgment-free, understanding, caring environment where they can receive counsel about the potential health consequences of continued marijuana use during pregnancy and offer them pregnancy-safe alternative therapies in order to protect both the mothers and their unborn children.



El Camino Women’s Medical Group offers the latest Minimally Invasive Solutions for gynecologic problems.   Drs. Amy TengErika Balassiano, Pooja Gupta, and Christina Lam, all members of AAGL (American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopy) are highly trained and experienced in the field of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery.   Dr. Erika Balassiano has also completed a Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship, under the supervision of world-renowned Dr. Camran Nezhat.

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