Women who use marijuana during pregnancy are putting their babies at risk, a study published Thursday finds.
Babies born to women who were heavy cannabis users during pregnancy are more likely to have health problems, including premature birth and death within a year of birth, compared to babies born to women who did not use cannabis during pregnancy, according to an analysis of nearly 5 million California women who gave birth between 2001 and 2012.
The report in the journal Addiction is more evidence of the risks of marijuana use during pregnancy. As more states legalize adult use of recreational marijuana, researchers have been trying to determine whether the drug might have deleterious effects on fetuses. A study published in August linked pot use among pregnant women with an elevated risk of autism in their babies.
“Because many states in the U.S. now have approved medical and/or recreational cannabis, we recommend regulatory approaches targeting pregnant women, such as developing guidelines for physicians to appropriately recommend medical cannabis and communicating potential risks of prenatal cannabis use,” said the study’s lead author, Yuyan Shi, an associate professor of health policy and health economics at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at the University of California, San Diego.
Another approach would be to require dispensaries to display warning signs and for cannabis products to include warning labels of potential dangers to fetuses, she said in an email.
It’s not known how many pregnant women are using marijuana, nor how many might be heavy users. Earlier research showed that the number of pregnant women using cannabis doubled between 2002 and 2016, from 3.4 percent to 7 percent. That’s probably an underestimate, the researchers noted.
Shi and her colleagues reviewed the medical records of 4.83 million mother-infant pairs, which included 20,237 in which the delivery record noted that the woman had a diagnosis of either “cannabis dependence” or “nondependent cannabis abuse” — suggesting much more than occasional use.
The researchers matched the marijuana users with 40,474 pregnant women whose records showed no indications of cannabis use, by factors such as demographics, physical health conditions, mental health conditions and behavioral health conditions.
Published: April 23, 2021
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