As more states legalize recreational marijuana, experts are studying its effects on all parts of life. Since 2020 alone, six states have decriminalized marijuana use. There are currently 19 states, and DC has legalized marijuana.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, aimed to investigate the long-term effects of cannabis exposure on fetuses in utero in the wake of decriminalization.

*Image source: Unsplash/Pixelbay/Pexels

Back in 2020, the researchers decided to examine mental health markers for thousands of 9- and 10-year-old children who were exposed to cannabis in utero to varied degrees. In addition, they planned to monitor any changes over the duration of their adolescence and teen years.

The first study found that children exposed to cannabis in utero had a higher sleep and cognitive problems. In September 2022, researchers from Washington University released their first follow-up with the same group of participants, who were now 11 and 12 years old. The findings revealed that the same problems continued, and some were aggravated, for youngsters entering a critical period for mental health: adolescence.

Initial Research on Prenatal Cannabis Exposure

*Image source: Pexels/Pixelbay/Unsplash

The cannabis exposure research is a component of the countrywide Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, which examines brain development and child health over the long term. Institutions around the nation are employing data acquired from thousands of children and parents to answer fundamental questions regarding brain development during childhood.

In 2020, researchers from Washington University investigated 10,600 children whose mothers used marijuana for varying amounts of time during pregnancy. Some women used marijuana before they knew they were pregnant, or between four and six weeks after conception. Others smoked throughout their pregnancies.

*Image source: Pexels/Unsplash/Pixelbay

The study aimed to assess if exposed youngsters showed mental health symptoms by age 9 or 10. When examining the findings, the team looked for five distinct categories of symptoms, such as aggressive behaviors and attention issues.

Children whose mothers smoked cannabis throughout pregnancy exhibited heightened mental health symptoms. There were a number of drawbacks involved with the results, such as the observational nature of the study, indicating that causes other than cannabis use may have contributed to the symptoms.

*Image source: Unsplash/Pixelbay/Pexels

The results should also be interpreted with caution. While the study tells us a little something about the effects of cannabis on a developing fetus, the effect is modest, and there hasn’t been enough definite research conducted to provide definitive answers. Nonetheless, he adds it is essential to remember.

Pre-adolescent Marijuana Exposure and Its Effects

Researchers followed up with the same children, who are now reaching adolescence, two years after the initial trial. This age is crucial to investigate because adolescence is a crucial stage for numerous mental health concerns.

*Image source: Pixelbay/Pexels/Unsplash

Adolescence is the first time [children] experience a significant number of symptoms and may meet diagnostic criteria. Therefore, they may be at a greater risk for a full-blown mental health condition in adolescence.

The purpose of the 2022 follow-up study was to determine if the symptoms of those children with a mental health issue two years prior had changed. Children exposed to marijuana in utero exhibited higher mental health symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, consistent with the initial findings.

*Image source: Unsplash/Pixelbay/Pexels

Once adolescents reach 14 or 15, we anticipate further rises in mental health illnesses and other psychiatric conditions, which will persist through the early twenties.

The Dangers of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy

How safe is marijuana use during pregnancy? Experts in departments such as obstetrics, pediatrics, and psychology are investigating the potential effects of marijuana use during pregnancy on both the fetus and the mother.

*Image source: Pexels/Unsplash/Pixelbay

Most women who use opioids during pregnancy also use other substances, such as marijuana. There is a dispute concerning the subject of whether or not neonates experience marijuana withdrawal.

Immediate and long-term effects of marijuana usage on fetuses exposed in utero are difficult to predict with precision. Historically, marijuana use during pregnancy has been linked to the same danger as smoking tobacco, which is primarily a low birth weight. However, this risk is more closely associated with the act of breathing smoke than with marijuana itself.

*Image source: Unsplash/Pixelbay/Pexels

It is also challenging to research accurately. You cannot compel a pregnant woman to smoke marijuana for study purposes, and obtaining participants will require extensive testing and a lengthy medical history, which can be troublesome. In terms of both human and preclinical investigations, there is much more work to be done. So many variables exist.

There has been some lobbying for pregnant women to use marijuana to relieve morning sickness. However, she advises against this due to the unknown implications.

*Image source: Pixelbay/Pexels/Unsplash

Although cannabis is becoming more readily available, it is still difficult to predict the long-term effects of prenatal marijuana use on offspring. Numerous researchers are just beginning to investigate and comprehend the effects of marijuana on fetal development. Medical practitioners continue to err on the side of caution by advising pregnant women not to use marijuana until more is known.

Experts recommend not smoking cannabis as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, as the study is still ongoing to determine how marijuana exposure in utero impacts the development of children. According to a study from Washington University, the mental health of children who were exposed to cannabis in utero at ages 9 and 10 was negatively affected. Researchers observed that these effects continued at 11 and 12 years of age. The legalization of marijuana in jurisdictions around the country enables academics to examine its impact in more depth. If you’re pregnant and use marijuana, even accidentally, consult your doctor.