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Marijuana use during pregnancy linked to autism in infants, study says



“Women who used cannabis during pregnancy were 1.5 times more likely to have a child with autism,” said study author Dr. Darine El-Chaâr, a maternal fetal medicine specialist and clinical investigator at the Hospital Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada.

“These are not reassuring findings. We strongly discourage cannabis use during pregnancy and lactation,” she said.

“Based on this, “I’m not very surprised by these findings,” El-Chaâr said. Fetal brain development occurs at all gestational ages. “

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The study, published Monday in the journal Nature, looked at data from every birth in Ontario, Canada, between 2007 and 2012, long before recreational marijuana was legalized in Canada in 2017. Out of half a million women in that group researchers narrowed the study to 2,200 women who said they used marijuana alone during pregnancy, without mixing it with tobacco, alcohol or opioids.

The study did not capture the amount and type of marijuana that women used during pregnancy. Nor did the study know when during pregnancy or how often women used it. And while the study could only show association, not cause and effect, the researchers said they did their best to eliminate the confusing factors.

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As weeds become legalized and more socially acceptable, health care researchers worry that mothers may think it’s good to use to treat morning sickness or use it recreationally, despite a lack of research on long-term impacts. in a fetus.

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Women also chose to use marijuana to avoid drugs they thought were most harmful to their baby, such as anti-nausea pills, anti-psychotic and opioid medications, a small study of pregnant women by University researchers found Washington State.

Pain management, El-Chaâr said she hears expecting mothers, is the most common reason for using marijuana.

“It helps with various conditions they may have or to have nausea and vomiting during pregnancy,” El-Chaâr said. “Some people (said) they use (it) for sleep or to reduce stress. Still others use it for recreation; it’s just part of their routine.”

Marijuana use by pregnant women has increased in the United States in recent decades. An analysis last year of 450,000 pregnant American women ages 12 to 44 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found cannabis use more than doubled between 2002 and 2017.
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The vast majority of marijuana use was during the first three months of pregnancy, the study found, and was mostly recreational rather than medical.

However, the first trimester can be one of the most sensitive periods for a fetus developing brain, when it is most susceptible to damage, El-Chaâr said. Studies have found cannabis receptors in the brains of animals as early as five to six weeks of gestational age, she said.

“You can hypothesize that if there are cannabinoid receptors and the baby’s brain is exposed, it could have (one) effect on brain development,” she said.

Seedlings need to do

Any woman who uses marijuana and finds out she is pregnant should immediately discuss its use with her doctors, experts say. However, many young women are not honest, studies show. A study of women aged 24 and younger found that they were nearly twice as likely to show positivity for marijuana use than they stated in self-reports.

The self-reported prevalence of marijuana use during pregnancy ranges from 2% to 5% in most studies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“Pregnant women or women contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue the use of marijuana for medical purposes in favor of an alternative therapy for which there is better specific data on the specification of pregnancy,” the ACOG said in its recommendations.

“There is insufficient data to assess the effects of marijuana use on infants during lactation and breastfeeding, and in the absence of such data, marijuana use is discouraged.”


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