Cannabis use has increased in Canada since its legalization in 2018, including among pregnant women who may be motivated to use cannabis to reduce symptoms of nausea and vomiting. However, a growing body of research suggests that cannabis use during pregnancy may harm the developing fetus. As a result, patients increasingly seek medical advice from online sources, but these platforms may also spread anecdotal descriptions or misinformation. Given the possible disconnect between online messaging and evidence-based research about the effects of cannabis use during pregnancy, there is a potential for advice taken from social media to affect the health of mothers and their babies.
This study aims to quantify the volume and tone of English language posts related to cannabis use in pregnancy from January 2012 to December 2021.
Modeling published frameworks for scoping reviews, we will collect publicly available posts from Twitter that mention cannabis use during pregnancy and use the Twitter Application Programming Interface for Academic Research to extract data from tweets, including public metrics such as the number of likes, retweets, and quotes, as well as health effect mentions, sentiment, location, and users’ interests. These data will be used to quantify how cannabis use during pregnancy is discussed on Twitter and to build a qualitative profile of supportive and opposing posters.
The CHEO Research Ethics Board reviewed our project and granted an exemption in May 2021. As of December 2021, we have gained approval to use the Twitter Application Programming Interface for Academic Research and have developed a preliminary search strategy that returns over 3 million unique tweets posted between 2012 and 2021.
Understanding how Twitter is being used to discuss cannabis use during pregnancy will help public health agencies and health care providers assess the messaging patients may be receiving and develop communication strategies to counter misinformation, especially in geographical regions where legalization is recent or imminent. Most importantly, we foresee that our findings will assist expecting families in making informed choices about where they choose to access advice about using cannabis during pregnancy.