Though we would like to believe that cannabis is a versatile remedy that can help us cure any disease, the general picture is not so ideal. Unfortunately, there are some restrictions in cannabis use, one of them being pregnancy.
Just like when it comes to many other conventional drugs, pregnancy is such a delicate state that it requires many restrictions. Future mothers have to be careful and know how every substance that they consume during their pregnancy may influence the child. That is why there is an impressive number of studies that examine the influence of cannabis on a pregnant body and the baby.
One of the latest studies in the field was conducted by a Dutch scholar―Dr. Hanan El Marroun of Erasmus University Medical Center. Until today, similar studies have been researching short- and long-term behavioral consequences of prenatal cannabis exposure. This new study concentrates on the brain morphology.
The researcher mentions that cannabis use during pregnancy happens quite often, and the scientists do not know the whole scale of the impact it has on the fetus. In fact, statistically, about 2-13 percent of pregnant women continue using marijuana. A simple reason for this is the lack of knowledge about the plant's influence and the consequences it may have on the child's brain.
The first step to understanding what impact cannabis has on a child's development is to understand what exactly happens inside the brain.
Structural magnetic resonance imaging helped the researchers study the brains of 54 kids from 6 to 8 who were prenatally exposed to marijuana. The MRI scans allowed to study the cortical thickness and brain volume of the subjects.
However, the difficulty at this stage of the study was in the simultaneous prenatal exposure of most examined kids to tobacco, so the scientists had to compare the results to those subjects who were exposed only to tobacco as well as children with no exposure.
The results showed that those children who endured cannabis were affected differently than those who were exposed to tobacco. The main difference lies in the cortical thickness. The study revealed no differences in the overall brain volume in these two groups.
Those children who have thicker pre-frontal cortex due to the recklessness of their mothers can experience grievous consequences. This part of the brain is involved in the process of decision-making, complex cognition, social behavior, and working memory.
However, the results have to be interpreted carefully and accurately. Right now, we can say that pregnancy is so fragile that can be easily affected by smoking both weed and tobacco.
All in all, this study suggests that the effects of prenatal cannabis exposure are important for the future development of children. Unfortunately, the legalization of recreational and medical cannabis use can increase the number of the cases of cannabis use during pregnancy. So, the scientists have to study the possible effects further.