New study warns of risks of prenatal cannabis exposure

Another study pointing to the adverse reactions that smoking cannabis during pregnancy might have on children was released this week.

This one claims the habit could lead to an increased risk of psychotic-like behaviors, as well as weaker cognitive abilities and other issues, during middle childhood.  

Published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, the research was based on data on 11,489 children aged 9 to 10 years over the course of a decade and obtained through the national Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development survey. A total of 655 of the children included in the research were exposed to marijuana prior to birth, as reported by their mothers. 

According to the results, children exposed to cannabis while in utero were more likely to experience psychopathology during childhood compared to the 10,834 children with no prenatal marijuana exposure. The children participating in the study were evaluated around the age of 9.

The researchers from Washington University in St. Louis also found more frequent instances of other types of issues such as depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances among the children that were exposed to the drug while in the womb. 

One of the study’s authors, clinical psychology graduate student Sarah Paul, noted that cannabis use among pregnant women has been on the rise in recent years amid “increasingly permissive and lenient attitudes” toward the plant.

However, scientists know “remarkably little” about the potential effects of marijuana use during pregnancy, she added. Even less is known about these potential effects and behavioral problems among children exposed to cannabis as they grow older, according to Paul. 

“It is clear that more studies on the association between prenatal cannabis exposure and offspring developmental outcomes are needed to examine potential causal effects, moderating or protective factors, and biological mechanisms,” the study’s authors wrote.

They added that education on the potential adverse consequences of marijuana use during pregnancy should be messaged in the same fashion as alcohol and tobacco health warnings. 

The team concluded that pregnant women, as well as those contemplating pregnancy, should be discouraged from any type of marijuana use by their physicians. 

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