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Evidence-Based Practices in Preventing Marijuana Use Among Pregnant Women in Arizona

Marijuana Use_ Among Women Aged 15-44 By Pregnancy Status

Arizona has seen a significant increase in marijuana use among pregnant women, particularly since the state legalized recreational marijuana in 2020. According to recent data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the percentage of pregnant women in the US who reported using marijuana rose from 5.4% in 2019 to 8.0% in 2020. This alarming trend highlights the need for effective, evidence-based practices to prevent and reduce prenatal marijuana use in the state.

The Risks of Prenatal Marijuana Use

Marijuana use during pregnancy has been associated with numerous adverse health outcomes for both mother and child. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that marijuana use may be linked to fetal growth restriction, stillbirth, and preterm birth. Additionally, prenatal marijuana exposure has been shown to impact fetal brain development and may lead to long-term cognitive, behavioral, and mental health problems in children.

Key Evidence-Based Practices for Preventing Prenatal Marijuana Use in Arizona

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)

  • SBIRT is a comprehensive public health approach that involves screening individuals for substance use, providing brief interventions, and referring those in need to appropriate treatment services.
  • The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) recommends that all pregnant women be screened for substance use, including marijuana, as part of routine prenatal care.
  • Healthcare providers in Arizona can use validated screening tools, such as the Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test-Revised (CUDIT-R), to identify pregnant women at risk for marijuana use disorders.
  • Brief interventions, such as motivational interviewing, can then be provided to help women reduce or quit their marijuana use. Below is the image for the questions asked.
Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test-Revised CUDIT-R

Integrated Clinics for Pregnant and Parenting Women

Outcomes of Milagro Program
  • Integrated clinics provide comprehensive, coordinated care for pregnant and postpartum women, addressing substance use, mental health, and other needs in a single setting. These clinics offer a range of services, such as prenatal care, substance use treatment (including medication-assisted treatment), parenting classes, and child development support.
  • The University of New Mexico’s Milagro Program is the perfect example as a case study of a successful integrated clinic model that has been shown to improve outcomes for pregnant women with substance use disorders.
  • Arizona can benefit from implementing similar integrated clinic models tailored to the specific needs of pregnant women who use marijuana. By offering a range of services, such as prenatal care, substance use treatment, and parenting support, integrated clinics can help women achieve healthier pregnancies and reduce the risk of adverse outcomes related to prenatal marijuana use.

Health Communication Campaigns

Result of the Tips campaign
  • Health communication campaigns can play a crucial role in raising awareness about the risks of prenatal marijuana use and promoting healthy behaviors among pregnant women. These campaigns should focus on developing clear, evidence-based messaging that resonates with pregnant women and their families, while also being culturally relevant and easily accessible.
  • The Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®) campaign, developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), offers valuable lessons for designing effective health communication strategies. The campaign uses compelling personal stories and graphic images to convey the health consequences of smoking and encourage cessation. And here’s an image showcasing the outcomes of its campaign.
  • To create impactful campaigns in Arizona, public health professionals should tailor messages to specific audiences and use multiple communication channels, such as social media, healthcare settings, and community events, to reach pregnant women. Campaign materials should be easily understandable, visually engaging, and distributed through various platforms to maximize reach and effectiveness.

Postpartum Home Visits by Health Professionals

  • Home visits by health professionals during the postpartum period can provide critical support and education to new mothers, including those who may be struggling with marijuana use. These visits offer an opportunity to assess the mother’s and baby’s health, provide breastfeeding support, educate parents on child development, and connect families to essential resources.
  • The Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is an evidence-based home visitation program that has been shown to improve maternal and child health outcomes, including reducing substance use.
  • Expanding and enhancing these services to specifically address postpartum marijuana use can help prevent relapse and promote healthy parenting practices.

Implementing Evidence-Based Practices in Arizona: Challenges and Opportunities

Limited Resources and Funding

  • Implementing evidence-based practices for preventing prenatal marijuana use requires significant resources, including financial support, trained staff, and adequate facilities.
  • Arizona policymakers and healthcare organizations must prioritize funding for these initiatives to ensure their success and sustainability.

Stigma and Discrimination

  • Pregnant women who use marijuana often face stigma and discrimination, which can deter them from seeking help or disclosing their substance use to healthcare providers.
  • Addressing this challenge requires a multi-faceted approach, including educating providers on non-judgmental screening and intervention techniques, promoting compassionate care, and working to reduce the social stigma surrounding substance use during pregnancy.

Lack of Provider Training

  • Many healthcare providers in Arizona may lack the necessary training to effectively screen for and address prenatal marijuana use.
  • Investing in provider education and training programs that focus on evidence-based practices, such as SBIRT and motivational interviewing, can help bridge this gap and improve the quality of care for pregnant women who use marijuana.

Inconsistent Policies and Regulations

  • Arizona’s policies and regulations regarding prenatal marijuana use and reporting requirements may vary across healthcare settings and jurisdictions.
  • Developing clear, consistent guidelines that prioritize the health and well-being of pregnant women and their families can help facilitate the implementation of evidence-based practices and ensure that women receive appropriate care and support.


As Arizona continues to grapple with the increasing prevalence of marijuana use among pregnant women, it is essential to prioritize the implementation of evidence-based practices that have been shown to prevent and reduce prenatal substance use. By investing in strategies such as SBIRT, integrated clinics, health communication campaigns, and postpartum home visits, Arizona can make significant strides in promoting healthy pregnancies and improving outcomes for mothers and babies affected by marijuana use.

However, achieving these goals will require a concerted effort from policymakers, healthcare providers, public health professionals, and community stakeholders. By working together to address challenges such as limited resources, stigma, lack of provider training, and inconsistent policies, Arizona can create a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to preventing prenatal marijuana use and ensuring the best possible outcomes for families across the state.

Furthermore, if you want to delve deeper into the five chapters, check out the PDF we’ve attached below. It has all the details you need so you don’t miss any information. 

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Nirvana Recovery