The perception of pre- and post-natal marijuana exposure on health outcomes: A content analysis of Twitter messages

Dakkak, H., Brown, R., Twynstra, J., Charbonneau, K., Seabrook, J.* | JNPM 2018;

The prevalence of marijuana use during pregnancy ranges from 3–30% , and most of this is for recreational purposes. Marijuana exposure during pregnancy has been linked with low birth weight babies and other adverse child health outcomes. Twitter is a popular news and social networking outlet, and is frequently used to access information about population health and behavior. The primary objective of this study was to investigate the types of messages disseminated on Twitter about marijuana use and infant and maternal health. The secondary objective was to describe the reported health outcomes associated with prenatal and postnatal marijuana use. Tweets were collected from the inception of Twitter (2006) until April 2017. If tweets included links, these links were examined to investigate the source of the message and to clarify the user’s intent. In total, 550 tweets were captured, with most tweets (77.6%) having a neutral tweet tone, suggesting uncertainty about the health effects associated with pre- and post-natal marijuana exposure. The sources attached to the original tweets, however, were more likely to report on negative health outcomes. The most common health outcomes associated with prenatal marijuana exposure were: poor brain development (27.3%), inadequate development of the nervous system (23.6%), low birth weight (23.3%), poor behavioral outcomes (21.0%), and infant memory issues (19.3%). The inverse association between marijuana use and the quality and quantity of milk produced by the mother was the most commonly reported tweet for the lactation period.

*Corresponding Author: 

Dr. Jamie A. Seabrook, Brescia University College at Western University, 1285 Western Road, London, N6G 1H2, ON, Canada. Tel.: +1 519 432 8353/Ext. 28284; Fax: +1 519 858 5137; E-mail: