Researchers from Canada found that use of marijuana during pregnancy can increase the risk of autism in newborn babies.
The study was recently published in the journal Nature Medicine that reviewed the data from Ontario, Canada of every birth during 2007 and 2012. However, the use of recreational marijuana was legalized in 2017 in Canada.
The data pool included about half a million pregnant women; however, the researchers narrowed the study data. About 2,200 pregnant women reported using marijuana alone in pregnancy, without the combination of opioids, tobacco, or alcohol. The clinical investigator at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and author of the study Dr. Darine El-Chaar said,
“Women who used cannabis during pregnancy were 1.5 times more likely to have a child with autism.”
An association in the use of marijuana during pregnancy and autism in the child was found in the study. The fetus exposed to marijuana had an increased risk of developing autism than the unexposed fetus.
Moreover, the researchers suggest the likelihood of learning disorders and intellectual disability are higher in the newborn baby born to a mother using marijuana during pregnancy. However, the findings were not statistically robust.
Researchers reported the limitations of their study, stating it did not address the amount and type of marijuana use in pregnancy. Moreover, there were no reports on the consistency of the use of marijuana during pregnancy. Researchers addressed confounding variables; however, it does not provide a cause and effect association.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that the self-reported prevalence of marijuana use during pregnancy lies between 2% to 5%. They suggest
“Pregnant women or women contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue the use of marijuana for medical purposes in favor of alternative therapy for which there are better pregnancy-specific safely data.”
Additionally, the researchers suggested a cautious interpretation of the findings of the study considering the probability of residual confounding variables.