Medical records analysis links cannabis use disorder in pregnancy to infant health problems

A new study of nearly 5 million live births recorded in California from 2001 to 2012 found that babies born to mothers diagnosed with cannabis use disorders at delivery were more likely to experience negative health outcomes, including preterm birth and low birth weight, compared to babies born to mothers without a cannabis use disorder diagnosis.

Further, THC disrupts the normal function of the endocannabinoid system, which has been shown to play a key role in fetal brain development and in pregnancy, including implantation of the embryo in the uterus and maintenance of the placenta.

In the current study, investigators found that among the 4.83 million mother-infant pairs analyzed in the study, 20,237 women received a delivery discharge diagnosis of cannabis use disorder, which goes beyond occasional cannabis use and involves meeting specific criteria for a pattern of continued cannabis use despite negative consequences.

“While we cannot establish that cannabis use caused negative outcomes in this study, these data reinforce the case for caution around using cannabis during pregnancy,” said NIDA Director Nora D.

To assess the correlation between cannabis use disorder and infant health outcomes, investigators compared the mother-infant pairs linked to a cannabis use disorder diagnosis to 40,474 control mother-infant pairs with similar demographics and maternal health factors, including other substance use disorder diagnoses and tobacco use.

Investigators also analyzed infant death certificates linked to birth records and found that, while infant mortality was rare overall , infants born to women with a cannabis use disorders diagnosis at delivery were 35% more likely to die within a year of birth than control group infants.

“Because we are looking only at medical records, there is a lot we don’t know about the mothers and infants in this study,” said lead author Dr.

Currently, it is not standard practice for healthcare professionals to screen for cannabis use or cannabis use disorders during pregnancy, nor is it standard to provide counselling on the lack of safety data around cannabis use during pregnancy.

These findings are consistent with previous findings that suggest concurrent tobacco use is common among pregnant women who use cannabis and underscore the importance of analyzing tobacco use and other confounding factors that may occur in cases of cannabis use disorder captured by medical records.

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse : NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S.

NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

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