A this week’s study is the latest to suggest that the use cannabis during pregnancy is not necessarily harmless. Scientists have found a link between a mother’s occasional cannabis use during pregnancy and poorer outcomes for newborns, such as low birth weight. These effects were greater in mothers who used cannabis late in pregnancy but could still be seen in those who used cannabis early.
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The work was conducted by researchers from the College of Medicine at Central Michigan University. A increasing number of studies showed a link between cannabis use during pregnancy and poorer newborn outcomes. But in this research, the scientists were also able to examine the timing and duration of cannabis exposure.
The team monitored the health of pregnant women and their newborns who received care at a local hospital, focusing on those who said they had recently used cannabis or tested positive at some point during pregnancy. They were then compared to mothers who had never tested positive for cannabis during their pregnancy. In total, about 270 mother-child pairs were included in the study.
As with other studies, the team found that cannabis use during pregnancy in general was linked to smaller height in newborns, an effect that was apparent even when mothers stopped using cannabis. at the end of the first trimester. But they also found that mothers who continued to use cannabis while pregnant during their second or third trimester had children on average, as well as other negative results added. The team’s findings were published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in pediatrics.
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“We show that even when marijuana use only occurred during the first trimester of pregnancy, birth weight was significantly reduced, by more than 150 grams on average,” the author said. of the study Beth Bailey, professor and director of population health research at Central Michigan University. Frontier Science News. “If this use continued into the second trimester, the neonate’s head circumference was also significantly reduced.”
The authors note that the size of the newborn plays an important role in the development of the child. Low birth weight, in particular, has been linked to a higher risk of many other conditions throughout life, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even a greater vulnerability to diseases like covid-19.
Like any study, this research has its limitations. The results are based on a relatively small sample of pregnant women at a single site, for one. And while researchers were able to objectively track when people used cannabis, they didn’t have data on how often people actually took it regularly. Scientists are also still trying to understand the exact reasons why cannabis might be harmful during pregnancy and whether those effects might differ depending on how it is taken.
That said, it seems likely that cannabis poses a real risk to a developing fetus. And given that recreational cannabis use is increasingly legalized in the United States and elsewhere, it’s a risk prospective parents should be aware of. For years, organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have recommended that doctors advise future parents not to use cannabis during pregnancy. And the authors say their research only reinforces the validity of this advice.
“It is important to encourage patients to stop using marijuana as soon as they become pregnant to reduce the risk of fetal growth and potential long-term adverse effects on the health and development of offspring,” they said. they wrote. “These findings may also be used to influence business practices in cannabis dispensaries where marijuana use during pregnancy has not always been discouraged.”