On September 12th, 2022 a Media Advisory was released by the National Institutes of Health stating there is growing scientific evidence of negative health effects of cannabis use during pregnancy. For this particular reason, and many others, it is of great importance to speak with your prescribing practitioner before beginning any cannabinoid treatments.
This information came from a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, which analyzed data from the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study
What is known for certain, based on preclinical studies, is that Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis, can cross the placenta and potentially affect brain development. This ABCD Study, which is the largest long-term study of brain development and health in children and teens in the USA, has found a clear association between prenatal cannabis exposure and behavioural problems in children 9 to 10 years of age.
“Cannabis use among pregnant women increased from 3% in 2002 to 7% in 2017. In 2018, 4.7% of pregnant women reported cannabis use and 5.4% did in 2019, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The results of this new analysis further support caution against using cannabis during pregnancy, the authors say.”
We still know so little about the long-term impact of prenatal cannabis exposure. As a general precaution, most clinics and doctors recommend that women abstain from all forms of cannabis use until research on the topic has reached a definitive conclusion.
We know that cannabinoid receptors, as well as their endogenous ligands, are detected very early in embryonic development. This suggests that the human endocannabinoid system plays an important role during early stages of neuronal development and cell survival. With this information, it could be said that fetal exposure to cannabis could be associated with abnormalities in fetal growth and changes in birth outcomes, however as mentioned earlier, no study has reached conclusive evidence in either direction.
Based on cohort studies in which data is gathered directly from participants, women using marijuana during their pregnancies were at significantly increased risk of adverse neonatal outcomes such as low birth weight, preterm delivery, and NICU admissions.
When considering treating symptoms with CBD or THC it is extremely important to speak with medical professionals to weigh the costs and benefits, especially if the decision may impact the life of another living being. In 2020, research from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute and published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that continued use of cannabis at 15 weeks or pregnancy was associated with significantly lower birthweight, head circumference, birth length, and gestational age at birth, as well as with more frequent severe neonatal morbidity or death.
According to Dr. Luke Grzeskowiak who lead this study, cannabis is the illicit drug most widely used by women of reproductive age in Australia. “I hope the findings can be used to educate women and health care professionals about the possible harms of cannabis use during pregnancy. This is particularly important given the increasing perception in the community that cannabis is a safe drug.”
For more information about cannabinoid medications and treating your endocannabinoid system:
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You can access the studies here: