Pregnancy, as any mom can tell you, is no picnic. Many expectant women have problems with nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite and recurring pain. As it happens, marijuana can be an ideal remedy for all of those issues.
But as Trace Dominguez explains in today’s DNews dispatch, the emerging scientific consensus is that expectant moms probably should not toke up — just to be on the safe side.
Thanks to a recent and largely unexpected sea change in American attitudes, marijuana is now legal for medical and recreational use in half of the U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia. In the U.S., weed has never before been so readily available and officially sanctioned. As such, it’s likely that more people are smoking more pot under a wider range of circumstances. Science is just starting to catch up with the consequences of this significant social shift.
According to a new study in Biological Psychiatry, as much as 13 percent of women worldwide use cannabis during pregnancy. The research also looked at a particular cross section of users: babies exposed to cannabis in the womb versus babies exposed to tobacco in the womb. The results found that babies exposed to cannabis tended to have a thicker prefrontal cortex.
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What does that mean? It’s hard to say, exactly. The prefrontal cortex is a region of the brain involved in complex cognition, decision-making, and working memory. In some studies, a thicker frontal cortex has been correlated with higher intelligence in adulthood. But other studies suggest that it can impede development in youth. It gets a bit phrenological, actually.
This is just the latest in a long line of studies that have approached the intersection of the weed and the womb. An oft-cited 1994 study of Jamaican children found no measurable differences in the children of pot-smoking moms. But meta analyses of other research suggests that newborns have some neurological deficiencies in areas of problem solving, memory, and attention.
In any case, it’s clear the cannabis has some effect on babies, and as such, it’s safer to stay away entirely. The American Medical Association, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the World Health Organization all recommend against pot use while pregnant.