Cannabis use during pregnancy likely to cause mental health problems in children

By October 19, 2022 Recent News

Children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy may be more likely to develop mental health problems such as ADHD and aggressive behaviour, a new study suggests.

An analysis of data from more than 10,000 children aged 11 and 12 revealed that exposure to cannabis in utero was associated with a higher risk of developing disorders such as ADHD, aggressive behaviour, conduct disorder and rule-breaking behaviour, according to the report published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Dramatic increases in cannabis use during pregnancy are alarming because of evidence that prenatal exposure may be associated with a host of adverse outcomes. We previously found that prenatal cannabis exposure (PCE) following maternal knowledge of pregnancy is associated with increased psychopathology during middle childhood using baseline data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Here, leveraging longitudinal ABCD study data (data release 4.0), we examined whether associations with psychopathology persist into early adolescence.”

Source: Study – Association of Mental Health Burden With Prenatal Cannabis Exposure From Childhood to Early Adolescence – David A. A. Baranger, PhD1; Sarah E. Paul, MA1; Sarah M. C. Colbert, BA2; et al

The study’s first author, David Baranger PhD, says:

“The take-home message from this study is that there is some evidence that one should be cautious about using cannabis during pregnancy,”

The new study is an association and can’t prove that cannabis is the cause of the mental health problems, Baranger said. However, the results fall in line with earlier research on the same children, who were participants in the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study. The long-term project, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health, has been tracking the brain development of nearly 12,000 children via MRI scans.

A 2019 study that looked at the children when they were 9 and 10 found the same association between prenatal cannabis and behavioral issues. It also showed that children exposed to cannabis in utero tended to have lower birth weight, lower brain volume and lower white matter volume.

Read the full report here: