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Prenatal Cannabis Exposure May Harm Child Neurodevelopment

TUESDAY, Aug. 11, 2020 -- Cannabis use during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring by age 10 years, according to a study published Aug. 10 in Nature Medicine.

Daniel J. Corsi, Ph.D., from Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada, and colleagues retrospectively analyzed all live births in Ontario, Canada (April 1, 2007, to March 31, 2012). Birth registry data was linked to provincial health administrative data to determine child neurodevelopmental outcomes up to March 31, 2017, when children could be a maximum of 10 years of age.

The researchers found that, overall, about 3,000 women (0.6 percent) reported using cannabis during pregnancy. There was an association seen between maternal cannabis use in pregnancy and the incidence of autism spectrum disorder in offspring. For children with in utero exposure to cannabis, the incidence of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis was 4.00 per 1,000 person-years versus 2.42 among unexposed children (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.51). While not statistically significant, the incidence of intellectual disability and learning disorders was also higher among offspring of mothers who use cannabis in pregnancy.

"Further study is needed on the amount and timing of cannabis use in pregnancy and childhood health outcomes and following the legalization of cannabis in many jurisdictions," the authors write.

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Posted: August 2020

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