Warning: Cannabis Use During Pregnancy Linked to Increased Risk of Adverse Birth Outcomes

Cannabis Fetus

A new study reveals that prenatal cannabis exposure significantly increases the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and NICU admission in infants, although it does not elevate the risk of birth defects or infant mortality within the first year.

A study recently published in the journal Addiction found that infants exposed to cannabis in the womb are more likely to be born prematurely, have lower birth weights, and need care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) compared to those not exposed to cannabis prenatally. The study also noted that these cannabis-exposed infants do not have a higher risk of birth defects or of dying within their first year, including from sudden unexpected infant death.

First author Ms. Maryam Sorkhou comments, “The global increase in cannabis use among women of reproductive age also extends to pregnant women.  We know that THC, the main psychoactive constituent in cannabis, can cross the placenta from mother to fetus and bind to receptors in the fetal brain.  Our study adds to that knowledge by showing that prenatal exposure to cannabis heightens the risk of several adverse birth outcomes.”

Methodology of the Meta-Analysis

This meta-analysis (a synthesis of past studies) pooled the results of 57 prior studies with a total of 12,901,376 infant participants, 102,835 of them exposed to cannabis. 

Twenty of the studies measured the association between intrauterine cannabis exposure and the risk of preterm delivery.  In these, the combined results show that mothers using cannabis were over one and a half times more likely to have a preterm delivery compared with mothers not using cannabis during pregnancy.

Eighteen of the studies measured the risk of low birth weight.  In these, the combined results show that mothers using cannabis during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to have a low-birth-weight baby compared with mothers not using cannabis during pregnancy.

Ten of the studies measured the risk of requiring NICU admission.  In these, the combined results show that newborns with intrauterine cannabis exposure were more than twice as likely to require NICU admission than nonexposed newborns.

The studies included in this meta-analysis were published between 1984 and 2023 in a broad range of countries.

Reference: “Birth, cognitive and behavioral effects of intrauterine cannabis exposure in infants and children: A systematic review and meta-analysis” by Maryam Sorkhou, Daisy R. Singla, David J. Castle and Tony P. George, 15 November 2023, Addiction.
DOI: 10.1111/add.16370

The study was funded by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

4 Comments on "Warning: Cannabis Use During Pregnancy Linked to Increased Risk of Adverse Birth Outcomes"

  1. It is interesting that the US has spent decades discouraging people from smoking tobacco. Yet, users have rationalized that THC was benign, and somehow the smoke coming from tobacco and forest fires is dangerous, but again benign, if derived from marijuana. Ever more states are legalizing recreational use of marijuana, pretending that it is safe.

    Lest anyone thinks that humans are rational creatures, all they have to do is step back and look at the big picture.

    • Old Guy, still alive | November 20, 2023 at 9:53 am | Reply

      “Smoking tobacco” is almost always done using cigarettes made from PROCESSED material. There is nasty chemicals that they add; in the past this included gunpowder (to keep the cigarette burning) and formaldehyde among others.
      I hate cigarettes. I can smell them across a parking lot, and they make my nose burn. I tried lighting one for a customer in my restaurant (30 years ago) using the stove burner, and, without inhaling the smoke in my lungs (puffing with my mouth), it made me choke like I was dying, my mouth burned, my lungs hurt (I didn’t inhale!). My god that was a terrible experience. If a passenger burns a cig in my car, even with the windows down, and my eyes water and nose burns.
      Then one day I looked in my rear-view mirror and a passenger was smoking a hand-rolled organic tobacco (American Spirit brand) cigarette, and my nose could not even tell. I was camping with some folks a few years ago, and was sitting and talking with someone who was smoking one of these organic hand-rolls. Deeply focused on the conversation, he took a drag and dropped his hand, and I reflexively reached out and took the cig as if it was a cannabis joint and unconsciously took a drag myself (40 years of passing joints around a circle will do that to you – ♪♫ “Dont bogart that joint, my friend, pass it over to me” ♪♫). It tasted bad, but not “revolting” like a typical corporate prerolled cig, and I didn’t choke at all.
      **To me, the real danger of legalizing cannabis is what corporations will do to the product.**
      These days, cannabis is more potent. I used to ♪♫ “smoke 2 joints, then smoke 2 joints.” ♪♫ That’s what it took to make me feel like I wanted to feel, and then I was done for a while. Now I smoke 2 “hits”, two breaths worth, and that is usually good, maybe another 2.
      Cigarette smokers, like Clyde’s diseased father, typically “chain smoke” – a pack a day? Two Packs a day? The corporations make sure of that. The tobacco in a pack of cigs, if cannabis, would last me a week or two.
      And what of the dangers of smoke in general? Carbon-monoxide (CO) and “tar” are the worst.
      Forrest fires are bad, but a campfire does not make my lungs revolt or trigger my asthma like city-pollution does (smoking cannabis at those times relieves my symptoms and allows my to take full breaths again – which of course is bad in a city which is why my body responds correctly and restricts my airflow, but it can get uncomfortable). When wildfires enter a city, the smoke is full of industrial chemicals that are terrible for you; I could feel that when I was in Oregon a few years ago, and smoke was coming up from Cali. Still, they say long-term breathing of wood smoke is bad because of the CO and tar, and I agree.
      Smoking your cannabis through a WATER FILTRATION PIPE removes most of the tar. I would eat cannabis, and in my understanding, there is NO harm, but the effects are weaker per dose (and the price is still controlled my the NY Mafia in most states, even though legal) and the effects are less predictable and controllable; one day you feel nothing, the next day you are not driving for the rest of the day. Smoking one “hit” (breath) at a time until you feel like you want to, or get the relief from medical symptoms that you need, works best for me.
      Also, burn your cannabis without the “flame” touching the plant material, so it burns at a cooler temp and leaves a black lump of charcoal in the bowl, and the carbon is not consumed and turned to CO.
      Still, some tar will make it through the filter, and some carbon will be burned; but my personal experience is that city life without cannabis is worse for my body’s health than living in clean country air while smoking cannabis.
      A “vaporizer” eliminates the tar and CO, but again, the effects are less per dose.
      Ask the question “how many people have died from smoking cannabis?” Just because it recently became legal, doesn’t mean that a LARGE portion of the (US) population hasn’t smoked it for 70 years or more. We WOULD see the fallout if deaths have occurred, like they do with other illicit and illegal drugs. But we haven’t.
      Is cannabis safe? Is city air safe? Is spring water safe? (a study 20+ years ago found DDT in every spring-water source including remote locations in the Amazon rainforest). NOTHING IS SAFE! Grow up and take responsibility for yourself because the govment, medical industries, (etc.) NEVER will be that responsible and will ALWAYS be looking out for THEIR interests.
      YOU decide if the benefits are worth the drawbacks to YOU and YOUR personal situation.

      Lest anyone thinks that humans are rational creatures, all they have to do is step back and look at the big picture.

  2. Old Guy, still alive | November 20, 2023 at 10:15 am | Reply

    Here again, we see the “scientific” word “linked”.
    This concept holds a lot of promise, and certainly signifies a promising avenue of hypothetical research, but “linked” does not equate to “causation”.
    Drug use is “linked” to other social maladies, including lower income, social inequality, social isolation, and metal health issues. Are these maladies caused by the drugs, or are these factors that led the individual to use drugs for social peer acceptance or to “self medicate”?
    Furthermore, these maladies can easily be “linked” to premature births, and actual “causation” can be shown.
    So WHY is there a “link” between cannabis use and premature births?
    The opioid industry wants you to believe it’s because the herb is dangerous.
    Is it? How about a real study, please, instead of a “go fish” game of statistics.

  3. 400,000 people die of tobacco every year. 100,000 die of alcohol. How do these compare?

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.