A recent study from Canada suggests that cannabis use during pregnancy can increase the risk of developing autism in the newborn.
A study by the Hospital Research Institute in Ottowa suggests that children of mothers who used cannabis during pregnancy are more likely to develop autism. The study, believed to be the largest of its kind, looked at more than 500,000 births from April 2007 to March 2012.
Although the study does not prove that cannabis use during pregnancy causes autism, there is a link between the two factors, according to the study authors. The study also gives no indication of how much cannabis was consumed by the expectant mothers, how potent the cannabis consumed was, or how often and at what stage the pregnancy they have used cannabis.
Cannabis carries significant risks during pregnancy
The study published on the Nature website found that 0.6 percent of mothers of Children with autism reported using cannabis during pregnancy. The researchers also found that 1.4 percent of the cases studied were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. According to the mother, if cannabis was consumed during pregnancy, this number increased to 2.2 percent. During the period investigated by the researchers, cannabis was still illegal in Canada. One of the study directors and specialist in obstetrics, Dr. Darine El-Chaâr was not very surprised by the results.
The knowledge gained is extremely worrying. “We strongly advise against consuming cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding,” said the clinical researcher at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. According to El-Chaâr, expectant mothers often report using cannabis during pregnancy for pain relief or for nausea or vomiting. Overall, children of mothers who consume cannabis during pregnancy are more likely to experience intellectual disabilities and learning disorders, although these results are statistically less reliable.
Last year, researchers from Ottawa also found that women who use cannabis while pregnant are at higher risk of having their babies prematurely, and scientists from two other universities in Ontario reported an association between cannabis use while in January pregnancy and low birth weight.