Apr 26, 2016 9:30 AM

Using Marijuana While Pregnant May Cause Low Birth Weight of Babies

A new report published April 5 in the journal BMJ Open warns women that using pot during pregnancy can damage babies' health and put them at great risk.

According to a review of 24 studies, using marijuana during pregnancy may be the reason for delivering a baby with a weight lower than average. It may also be the reason for increased chances of other health problems that require newborn's placement in the intensive care unit.

Not all studies showed a negative effect of marijuana on fetal health; some of them found no effect of cannabis on newborn babies. More than that, a major part of the studies were observing whether there was a connection between using pot and health problems in babies, but these studies did not specify whether it was marijuana that caused these problems. None of these studies accounted whether any other drugs were used by the pregnant women, whether they had any unhealthy habits, or what were their genetics.

Jayleen Gunn, the study author and an assistant research scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said that understanding the relationship between marijuana use and fetal health is essential, but these studies are definitely not enough to understand this connection.

There is a prejudice about marijuana in the society. People link cannabis use to car accidents, HIV, psychosis, cancer, and other health problems, so no wonder they also want to add to this list the potential harm to the health of both the mother and the newborn, said Gunn.

She believes that we need to conduct more studies that would help us understand this relationship. Apart from this, it is also important to educate pregnant women about potential side effects of marijuana, whether they use it for a medical or recreational purpose.

However, Gunn and her colleagues found an obvious tendency: if the mother used cannabis during pregnancy, the baby had 77 percent higher chances to be underweight comparing to the babies whose mothers did not use marijuana.

The study showed that those babies whose mother used the drug had two times greater chances to end up in an intensive care unit (for different reasons). Gunn also noted that pregnant women who used cannabis had 36 percent more chances of having anemic symptoms than women who remained “clean” during their pregnancy.

Unfortunately, the studies that were analyzed by Gunn did not mention what form of marijuana or what amount of the drug was used by the pregnant women. As other studies found out, there is a big difference between consuming marijuana in micro-doses and in large doses; in some cases, the effect of these two ways of consuming can be absolutely opposite.

High CBD cannabis strains also have a different effect on human health comparing to strains with a high THC level. While THC causes most of the negative side effects and is responsible for the psychoactive effect, CBD weed is considered to have a certain medicinal effect, including pain alleviation and treating mood disorders.

The effects of most of the other controlled substances (illicit and licit) on maternal health and fetal development have already been studied and well-documented. At the same time, we still know so little about marijuana effect on the developing fetus, though according to the data, cannabis remains one of the most used drug in the U.S.

According to the deputy director of NORML Paul Armentano, the available data we have so far does not show any potential impact of the maternal use of marijuana on babies apart from the same impact that is caused by alcohol and tobacco.

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