Researchers found that using marijuana while pregnant could increase the risk of a child developing autism.
“Women who used cannabis during pregnancy were 1.5 times more likely to have a child with autism,” said the study author, Dr. Darine El-Chaâr, a fetal medicine specialist and clinical investigator at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada. “We strongly advise against cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding,” she said.
Previous studies have shown that marijuana use during pregnancy is related to low birth weight, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, attention problems, and other cognitive and behavioral problems in children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One study found that pregnant women who use marijuana have a 2.3 times higher risk of stillbirth.
The study, published Monday in the journal Nature, reviewed data from every birth in Ontario, Canada, between 2007 and 2012, long before marijuana was legalized in Canada in 2017. From the half million women in this data pool, the researchers then selected 2,200 women for the study who stated that they only consumed marijuana during pregnancy without mixing it with tobacco, alcohol or opioids.
As more and more countries in the world Making drug legally available, Health researchers fear that expectant mothers may think it’s okay to use it to treat morning sickness, despite the lack of research on long-term effects on a fetus.
Women also chose to use marijuana to avoid drugs they believed were more harmful to their baby, such as nausea pills, antipsychotic drugs, and opioids. This was the result of a small study on pregnant women by researchers at Washington State University.
“Pain management is the most common reason for using marijuana,” said El-Chaâr. “Some people said they take it to sleep or to relieve stress and others use it in their spare time.
The study found that the vast majority of marijuana use occurred during the first three months of pregnancy and was primarily for recreational and non-medicinal purposes.
“Still, the first trimester is possibly one of the most sensitive periods for a fetus’ developing brain when it is most susceptible to damage,” said El-Chaâr.
“Prospective parents should educate themselves about the possible risks, and we hope studies like ours can help,” said lead study author Professor Mark Walker of the University of Ottawa in Canada.