Consuming Cannabis While Pregnant: The Jury is Still Out

More questions than answers from a new study out of The Netherlands.

Using Weed During Pregnancy

Recent studies suggest that there could be differences in brain thickness between children who are exposed to cannabis and those who aren’t — but do these studies tell the whole story?

Across the pond, an hour south from Amsterdam, Dr. Hanan El Marroun, of Erasmus University Medical Center in The Netherlands has dedicated his work to researching one of the most overlooked aspects of cannabis use: consuming while pregnant.

In the United States, research is limited as the federal government disallows medical testing with the exception of a single crop of outright shwag coming from the University of Mississippi—exactly where you don’t want your cannabis coming from.

"This study is important because cannabis use during pregnancy is relatively common and we know very little about the potential consequences of cannabis exposure during pregnancy and brain development later in life,” she told the Medical Press.

Between 2-13 percent of women worldwide use cannabis during pregnancy, the publication reported. 

In this particular study, researchers examined the brains of 54 children between the ages of 6 and 8 years old who were exposed to cannabis in the womb.

Europeans love their spliffs, so no surprise here, most of the children exposed to cannabis were exposed to tobacco, too.

The data was compared with 96 children prenatally exposed to tobacco only, as well as 113 control children with no exposure.

Compared with unexposed children, those who were prenatally exposed to cannabis had a thicker prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved in complex cognition, decision-making, and working memory, though no actual difference between a control group in brain size could be found.

Despite the fact that cannabis use has not been proven to have the same effects on unborn children as alcohol or tobacco, this is mostly because of lack of data, Dr. El Marroun explained.

"We have to be careful interpreting the results of the current study," said El Marroun, noting that further research is necessary to explore the causal nature of the relationship between prenatal cannabis exposure and structural brain abnormalities.

The study does however reinforce smoking tobacco during pregnancy can have damaging effects.

Written on June 21, 2016 by

Tim Baker

Tim Baker is a New York-based writer and sometimes editor whose work has appeared in Newsweek, TV Guide, CBS and Discovery Special Editions, and can regularly be found at thrillist.com. He has an MFA in creative writing from The New School and also attended Hunter College of the City University of New York.