Marijuana use during pregnancy can harm children’s mental health

Children whose mothers used cannabis after the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy may be more likely to develop mental health problems in early adolescence, a new study suggests.

An analysis of data from more than 10,000 11- and 12-year-olds revealed that exposure to cannabis in the womb was associated with an increased risk of developing disorders such as ADHD, aggressive behavior, conduct disorder, and behavior breaking behavior. rules, according to The report published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“The take-home message from this study is that there is some evidence that one should be careful about using cannabis during pregnancy,” said study first author David Baranger, a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University in St. Louis. .

The new study is an association and cannot prove that cannabis is the cause of mental health problems, Baranger said.

However, the results are consistent with previous research on the same children, who participated in the ongoing study. Cognitive development of the adolescent brain (ABCD) study. The long-term project, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health, has been tracking the brain development of nearly 12,000 children through MRI scans.

Brain scans of the children “showed a hint of a potential impact of cannabis,” Baranger said.

A study 2019 who looked at children when they were 9 and 10 years old found the same association between prenatal cannabis and behavioral problems. He also showed that children exposed to cannabis in the womb tended to have lower birth weights, smaller brain volumes, and smaller white matter volumes.

Although still a small percentage, the number of women who use cannabis during pregnancy is growing. In 2018, 4.7% of pregnant women reported cannabis use and 5.4% did so in 2019, according to a government survey.

For pregnant women who rely on marijuana to relieve nausea, Baranger advised talking to your health care provider.

Baranger and her colleagues analyzed data from 10,631 children participating in the NIH Brain Study. The researchers compared three groups of children:

  • Those whose mothers did not use cannabis during pregnancy.
  • Those whose mothers used cannabis but stopped when they found out they were pregnant.
  • Those whose mothers continued to use cannabis after learning they were pregnant.

The impact of cannabis use was seen in the middle of the first quarter. Its use earlier in pregnancy, before mothers found out they were pregnant, did not appear to have an impact on the risk of children developing behavioral problems, Baranger said. He suspects it’s because cannabinoid receptors haven’t yet developed in fetal brains.

The new research says the problems found in the earlier study persist in 12-year-olds, said Staci Gruber, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, director of the Marijuana Research Program for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND). and the Cognitive and Core Neuroimaging Program at Harvard McLean Hospital.

It’s not hard to imagine why cannabis might appeal to some women, Gruber said. “You can understand why they might resort to something like this,” she added. “They may think it’s natural and won’t harm anything.”

But Gruber said there are many examples of natural substances that can harm people.

The big limitation of the study is that the data set used by the researchers does not have information on how often the women used cannabis, or how they used it, Gruber said.

More about cannabis use and children

Cannabis use during pregnancy appears to increase the risk of children having long-term behavioral and cognitive problems, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

“That association has now been shown to persist into early adolescence and, in the future, could lead to more psychopathology,” he said.

Cannabis use “is really not desirable because it is a drug that crosses the placenta and reaches the fetus,” Volkow said. “Initially, cannabinoid receptors are widely expressed in the brain.”

Cannabinoids are important in orchestrating some of the processes that help guide neurons from the center of the developing brain to distant points that will become the cortex, Volkow said.

“If the person takes marijuana, they will artificially stimulate the receptors, which could cause deviations from the very specifically orchestrated process,” Volkow said.

How to treat nausea during pregnancy

There are prescription medications to treat nausea during pregnancy. For those who want to avoid taking medication, there are behavioral interventions, Volkow said.

Several are described in an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. publication.

Recommendations for nausea during pregnancy include:

  • Eat small frequent meals every 1 to 2 hours to avoid a full stomach.
  • Avoid spicy or fatty foods.
  • Eliminate supplemental iron.
  • Replace folic acid with prenatal vitamins that contain iron.
  • Eat soft or dry foods, high-protein snacks, and crackers in the morning before you get up.

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