New research has revealed concerning findings about the potential effects of cannabis on babies in the womb. According to a peer-reviewed study published in Addiction, infants exposed to cannabis during pregnancy may be at a higher risk for adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight and preterm birth. This study, which was a compilation of data from 57 previous studies, analyzed information from nearly 13 million infants, including over 100,000 who were exposed to cannabis before birth.
The results showed that infants exposed to cannabis were 1.5 to over 2 times more likely to experience preterm birth, low birth weight, and NICU admissions compared to those who were not exposed. However, the study did not find any evidence that prenatal cannabis use had a negative impact on behavioral or cognitive outcomes in early childhood, except for attention and externalizing problems.
While the study did not find a link between cannabis use during pregnancy and infant mortality, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or birth defects, it did reveal that 48 out of the 57 studies analyzed showed higher rates of low birth weight, preterm birth, and NICU admissions in infants exposed to cannabis. In fact, 20 of the studies specifically looked at the association between cannabis use and preterm birth, and found that infants exposed to cannabis were 1.5 times more likely to deliver early.
Furthermore, 18 of the studies examined the link between cannabis use and low birth weight, and found that infants exposed to cannabis were over twice as likely to be born at a low weight compared to those who were not exposed. And in 10 of these studies, infants exposed to cannabis were over twice as likely to be admitted to the NICU compared to those who were not exposed.
Maryam Sorkhou, the first author of the study and a PhD candidate at the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto, emphasized the importance of these findings in a written statement. She explained that the study adds to the existing knowledge about the potential risks of THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis, crossing the placenta and affecting the fetal brain.
However, it’s important to note that there are limitations to this study that should be considered before drawing any definitive conclusions. One major limitation is the sample size, as there were significantly more infants who were not exposed to cannabis compared to those who were. Additionally, the study did not take into account other potential factors, such as exposure to other substances or lifestyle choices, that could have contributed to the adverse birth outcomes.
In conclusion, while this study highlights the potential risks of cannabis use during pregnancy, further research is needed to fully understand the impact of cannabis on fetal development. It’s important for pregnant women to be aware of these findings and to make informed decisions about their cannabis use.