APR 11, 2024 8:30 AM PDT

Cannabis Use During Pregnancy Linked to Intellectual Disability, Autism, ADHD

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Children born to mothers with cannabis use disorder (CUD) have an increased risk of conditions including ADHD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and intellectual disability. The corresponding study was presented at the European Psychiatric Association Congress 2024

Lead researcher of the study, Abay Woday Tadesse, a Ph.D. student at Curtin University, Australia, said in a press release: “The increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in children of mothers diagnosed with prenatal cannabis use that we have observed in this study underscores the critical needs for preventive measures, including preconception counselling, to mitigate the potential adverse outcomes.”

In the current study, researchers examined the association between prenatal cannabis use disorder (CUD) and neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring. To do so, they analyzed data from 222,569 mother-offspring pairs in Australia. Ultimately, they found that children born to mothers with prenatal CUD had a 98% higher risk of ADHD, a 94% increased risk of ASD, and a 46% increased risk of intellectual disability than children not exposed to cannabis in the womb.

They also found that children born to mothers with both prenatal CUD and a history of smoking during pregnancy had an even higher risk of ADHD, ASD, and intellectual disability. The researchers additionally found synergistic effects between prenatal CUD and other pregnancy complications, including low birth weight and premature birth. 

Senior author of the study, Professor Rosa Alati, Head of the Curtin School of Population Health, said in a press release: "These findings highlight the need to increase awareness of the risks associated with cannabis use during pregnancy among women planning to become pregnant."

“This study is unique because it utilises linked data with confirmed diagnoses, providing a more robust picture of the potential risks associated with prenatal cannabis use. The results underscore the need for public health education campaigns and clinical interventions to raise awareness about the potential risks of cannabis use during pregnancy and to support women in making informed decisions regarding their health and the well-being of their children,” explained Dr. Julian Beezhold, the Secretary General of the European Psychiatric Association, in a press release

Sources: EurekAlert


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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