Marijuana Use During Pregnancy Linked To Autism In Babies, Study Says

Recreational and medicinal use of cannabis in pregnancy may lead to serious developmental complications, increasing the risk of stillbirth and autism

Stats show that one in 20 women in the US has used marijuana during pregnancy. The use of cannabis is legalized in many states and society has found a way to accept it. well, some women even use this plant to relieve their pain and nausea during pregnancy. Fetuses should not be exposed to drugs which is why women tend to use cannabis as a natural alternative to medication.

However, marijuana may have a negative impact on the baby’s development inside the womb.

Cannabis and pregnancy

Pregnant and lactating women should stop using marijuana as its chemicals may impair the development of the baby’s nerve system.

Scientists have conducted extensive research and the results are more than predictable. Cannabis is in no way acceptable when it comes to treating pregnancy-related ailments.

Marijuana and autism

Cannabis may increase the risk of autism in babies. The largest study was based on the use of cannabis in pregnancy and researchers used data from every baby in Ontario, Canada, in the period between 2007 and 2012.

The data was narrowed down to 2200 women who used cannabis in their pregnancy. It’s important to note that these women didn’t mix their cannabis with tobacco, alcohol, and opioids.

The author of the study, Dr. Darine El-Chaâr, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and clinical investigator at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada, reveals that mothers who used cannabis during their pregnancy were 1.5 times more likely to birth a baby with autism than women who didn’t smoke.

“These are not reassuring findings. We highly discourage the use of cannabis during pregnancy and breastfeeding,” the doctor said.

Other studies have confirmed that marijuana may cause low birth weight, impulsivity, hyperactivity, attention issues, and cognitive/behavioral issues in kids.

Dr. El-Chaâr could have predicted these findings because babies’ brain develops at every gestational stage.

Marijuana and stillbirths

A 2013 study showed that using marijuana, tobacco, prescription painkillers, and illegal drugs in pregnancy leads to a two-times higher risk of stillbirth.

One in 160 births in the US is a stillbirth. In other words, there are about 24,000 stillborn babies each year. This number has dropped in the past six decades, but it’s still high.

Researchers weren’t able to separate the damage caused by tobacco from the effects of smoking marijuana. But, the association was too dangerous and they couldn’t ignore the findings.

“With the legalization of marijuana in some states, it is especially important for pregnant women and health care providers to be aware that cannabis use can increase stillbirth risk,” said senior author Uma M. Reddy, M.D., MPH, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute that supported the study.

Ignorance harms babies

El-Chaâr explains that most of the pregnant women who use cannabis actually take it to relieve their pain.

“It helps with different conditions that they may have or for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy,” said the doctor. “Some people (said) they use (it) for sleep or for stress reduction. Still, others use it recreationally; it’s just part of their routine.”

A thorough analysis of nearly 500,000 pregnant American women in the period between 2002 and 2017 confirmed that the number of women who used cannabis had doubled during those years. Women usually used cannabis in the first trimester, mostly for recreational purposes.

This is a rather serious situation fetuses are extremely sensitive in the first trimester. Believe it or not, even young fetuses have cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

“You can hypothesize that if there are cannabinoid receptors and the baby’s brain is exposed, it may have (an) effect on brain development,” said El-Chaâr.

Experts need to conduct additional research to provide more information on the impact of cannabis on pregnant and lactating women. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement regarding the topic.

“There are insufficient data to evaluate the effects of marijuana use on infants during lactation and breastfeeding, and in the absence of such data, marijuana use is discouraged.”

Women who have used marijuana before becoming pregnant should consult their gynecologist about it.“Pregnant women or women contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in favor of alternative therapy for which there are better pregnancy-specific safety data,” experts add.