New Study Shows that Marijuana Use During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Autism

More women are using marijuana to treat nausea caused by pregnancy-related morning sickness, but a new study from Canada has revealed the dangers, including an increased risk of autism.

According to reports, marijuana use among pregnant women has doubled from 2002 to 2017, as the drug has been legalized in several states and Washington D.C. About 2-5% of pregnant women use marijuana, and it is most commonly used among pregnant women ages 18-25.

An article in NPR shared how some women are driven to cannabis due to extreme nausea and weight loss during pregnancy.

A woman, identified as Jennifer, shared, “I had really intense food aversion and really intense nausea. I wasn’t eating at all…I was basically in this space, where I felt like I wanted to be a new mom and take care of my child and I wasn’t able to do that.”

After a suggestion from her husband, Jennifer took an iced tea with CBD and THC, “two of the main components in cannabis…She says her nausea went away and she was able to eat her first full meal in days.”

NPR reports that more than 100 women wrote into the publication to share their experience of using marijuana to treat “extreme nausea, vomiting and weight loss, so bad in some cases that they had to be hospitalized.”

But though the women report feeling relief, they may also be putting their preborn baby’s health at risk.

A study recently released by Nature concluded that women who use marijuana increase the risk of autism in their preborn children.

Conducted by using a “retrospective analysis of all live births in Ontario, Canada, between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2012.” The study showed that the incident of “autism spectrum disorder diagnosis was 4.00 per 1,000 person-years among children with exposure compared to 2.42 among unexposed children.” A different study concluded that marijuana use can also increase the risk of stillbirth.

“It helps with different conditions that they may have or for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy,” Dr. Darine El-Chaar, the study’s author, said in an interview with CNN. “Some people (said) they use (it) for sleep or for stress reduction. Still others use it recreationally; it’s just part of their routine.”

In 2019, the Surgeon General raised the alarm about the dangers of marijuana use among pregnant women, especially as the ingredients in the marijuana legally available is more potent than the what in the drug 20 years ago when the drug was illegal.

“This ain’t your mother’s marijuana,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during a press conference. “Worryingly, marijuana use is also linked to risk for and early onset of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, and the association strengthens with more frequent use, strong THC and earlier first use of marijuana.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees. “Pregnant women or women contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in favor of an alternative therapy for which there are better pregnancy-specific safety data.” 

Physicians also encourage women to stop using marijuana during breastfeeding.

Marijuana is often portrayed as a natural drug with minimal side effects, but this latest study reveals that this not the case, especially for pregnant women.

Photo from Shutterstock

 

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