Using Weed Even in the First Trimester ‘Significantly’ Shrinks Newborns, Study Finds

Volodymyr Hryshchenko
Volodymyr Hryshchenko

As marijuana becomes decriminalized and more socially acceptable, the health effects of frequent use is beginning to fall under a brighter spotlight among researchers. For every study that suggests cannabis could help stymie diseases like COVID or HIV, others suggest that it increases the risk of landing in the emergency room or getting into car crashes.

For researchers at Central Michigan University, their focus has been on what marijuana use might do during pregnancy. In a new study published in Frontiers in Pediatrics on Tuesday, the authors found that fetuses that are exposed to cannabis as early as the first trimester experience significant decreases in newborn weight. Higher rates of exposure exacerbated these effects, and could even lead to reduced head size.

“We show that even when marijuana use occurred only in the first trimester of pregnancy, birth weight was significantly reduced, by more than 150 [grams] on average,” Beth Bailey, a population health researcher at Central Michigan University and a co-author of the new study, said in a news release. “If that use continued into the second trimester, newborn head circumference was significantly decreased as well.”

Put Down the Bong—Pot Users More Likely to Land in Hospital

The new study builds off of previous research members of the team had done on how cannabis use can affect newborn size, but the findings are some of the first to caution against cannabis use even when the suspicion of a pregnancy is still being confirmed. On average, one out of every three pregnant people don’t know until after six weeks into their pregnancy.

The study looked at the health records of 270 expectant mothers who delivered their babies at Central Michigan University’s College of Medicine—109 of whom had urine samples that tested positive for marijuana at some point during their pregnancy, and 171 of whom tested negative throughout pregnancy. The findings indicate that continued exposure past the first trimester resulted in an average decrease in size by as much as 200 grams, and reduction in head circumference by nearly 1 centimeter.

The authors note that newborn size is a critical factor for a child’s development, and can inform how well someone might suffer later on in life from decreased immune systems and increased risks to conditions like heart disease, as well as learning disabilities and emotional problems.

Government Blacklisted Her for Smoking Legal Medical Marijuana While Pregnant

The new study does have its limitations—in particular the small sample size, and the fact that the study took place at a single site. There was also no data on how frequent expectant mothers were using cannabis—simply when they tested positive during set intervals during pregnancy.

Nevertheless, the takeaway for the authors is that pregnant women should refrain from any use of cannabis. “What we are telling women is that it’s not an absolute certainty that your baby’s growth will be impacted if you are using marijuana,” Bailey told CNN. “But we do know that you are at substantially higher risk for that outcome.”

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