Topic: Cannabis use during pregnancy linked to mental, behavioral health issues in kids
New research finds that pot use during pregnancy was connected to increased levels of stress, anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity in young children.
Women who use cannabis during their pregnancies could be putting their children at risk of developing mental health and behavioral problems early in life, a study published Monday finds.
Recent research has shown that heavy cannabis use during pregnancy can harm the fetus. Less clear, however, is the effect of the drug on child development in children born to women who used marijuana while they were pregnant.
As cannabis use becomes more prevalent, especially during pregnancy, it’s important to learn what the potential risk factors are, said Yasmin Hurd, a neuroscientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and the lead author of the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“It’s not that I think that cannabis is a horrible thing,” she said. “But it is a drug that we need to make sure we understand which individuals may be more vulnerable.”
Participants were part of a bigger research project called the Stress in Pregnancy study, which began in 2009 to examine how stress during pregnancy affects fetal growth and development. Pregnant women were invited to enroll in the study during their second trimesters, and women were asked to participate with their children in follow-up assessments up to four years after birth.
The new research looked at a subset of 322 mother-child pairs from the larger study, including 71 women who reported using cannabis during pregnancy. In this group, the researchers found that cannabis use during pregnancy was connected to increased levels of stress, anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity in young children. The study also identified genetic changes in the placentas of pregnant cannabis users that directly correlated to the increased anxiety and stress in their young children.
Hurd and her colleagues found that children born to women who used cannabis while pregnant had higher levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in hair samples compared to children born to nonusers. Children of women who used during their pregnancies had increased anxiety and hyperactivity in behavioral assessments. And young girls whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy demonstrated higher levels of aggression.
Topic Discussed: Cannabis use during pregnancy linked to mental, behavioral health issues in kids