Dangerous Effects of Cannabis During Pregnancy Explained by New Research

Cannabis is a derivative of Cannabis sativa that affects the normal functioning of the brain and impairs motor coordination leading to hallucinating effect. This new study suggests that cannabis exposure has real-time devastating effects on the fetus and placental development during the gestation period in pregnancy.

The principal constituent in cannabis is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the researchers at Western University and Queens University find that regular exposure to THC has a great effect on the development of the placenta and fetus during gestation. Since recreational cannabis has been legalized in Canada, the effects of cannabis during pregnancy are beginning to be perceived.

This study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports and it is available online.

Researchers used a rat model and human placental cells to show that regular exposure to THC during pregnancy has a great impact on not only the development of the vital organs of the fetus but also on the gene expression that is extremely important for the proper functioning of the placenta.

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The researchers practically find an 8 percent deduction in birth weight and diminished growth of brain and liver by more than 20 percent during gestation in a rat model due to the regular exposure to a low-dose of THC that copies the daily use of cannabis.

An associate professor, Daniel B. Hardy at Westerns Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and co-author on the paper suggests that the use of cannabis during pregnancy is highly linked with low birth weight babies.

Clinical data is hard to analyze because it is perplexed by other factors. The study is a definite way that supports that THC has a direct influence on the growth of the placenta and fetus.

Oxygen and nutrients cross the placenta into the developing fetus for nourishment and the research team characterizes how THC prevents oxygen and nutrients from crossing the placenta.

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A decrease in a glucose transporter called GLUT-1 is caused by the exposure to THC that was found by studying the placental cells of humans. This shows that THC is stopping the transfer of key nutrient glucose through the placenta, from mother to the fetus. A reduction in placental vasculature was also found in the rat model and infers a reduced flow of blood from the mother to the fetus.

In the researcher’s opinion the restricted growth they observed in the offspring is likely caused by both of these factors and find that there are recently no proper guidelines from Health Canada on the use of cannabis during the gestation period.

To prevent morning sickness, for anxiety, depression or social issues up to one in five women are using cannabis during pregnancy according to some studies.

A Ph.D.,  Associate Professor, David Natale at Queens finds in Canada and many states of the US the use of marijuana has been legalized, but its use during gestation period has not been studied well. There are very real devastating risks associated with the regular exposure of cannabis during pregnancy.

Areeba Hussain: