Brains of fetuses could suffer from exposure to marijuana

pregnant

Marijuana has been legalized in some capacity in 31 U.S. states, in large part due to a softening stance around the potential harms of the drug and recognition of its medical benefits. As a result, cannabis has become the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy.

Whereas marijuana is not a major health risk for most adults, prenatal drug exposure can be harmful to unborn babies. Previous research has shown infants exposed to cannabis in the womb are 50 percent more likely to have a lower birth weight. Now three new studies presented [November 6] at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting here suggest prenatal cannabis exposure—at least in rodents—could have serious consequences for fetal brain development.

Related article:  Vulnerability to mental illness may have given humans an evolutionary advantage

In one study researchers at Washington State University in Pullman showed rat pups born to mothers exposed to high amounts of cannabis vapor during pregnancy had trouble with cognitive flexibility.

In a similar study, scientists at Auburn University in Alabama found rats born to mothers that had been injected with a low, continuous dose of synthetic cannabis during pregnancy were significantly impaired on several different memory tasks involving mazes.

[The results] show “that there are indeed multiple systems being affected,” [Yasmin Hurd] says, “and given that more pregnant women today are starting to smoke marijuana, it’s really important for us to get that word out.”

Read full, original post: How Marijuana Harms a Developing Baby’s Brain

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