Canadian Study Raises Alarm About Cannabis Use During Pregnancy As ER And Hospital Visits Increase

Researchers found an alarming increase in emergency room visits and hospitalizations related to cannabis use by pregnant women and it is raising concerns about health risks from preterm labor and low birth weight to negative effects on the newborn's developing brain.

The new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed the rate of ER and hospital visits related to cannabis use increased by 82% between January 2015 and July 2021. Canada legalized marijuana in 2018.

Though it is important to note that the absolute increase in those needing medical assistance was not significant, writes the Toronto Star.

“Our findings highlight the potential need for education on cannabis-related harms for pregnant people and their care providers, and for policy interventions aimed at reducing use,” the authors wrote in their conclusion.

Study Highlights

  • Researchers analyzed data from nearly one million pregnancies and found the average number of pregnant women requiring hospital care for marijuana use inceased by 82% between January 2015 and July 2021; 
  • The absolute increase in those needing hospital care (ER or while hospitalized) increased from 11 per 100,000 pregnancies to 20 per 100,000 pregnancies. 

The research stresses the need for raising awareness about the potential risks of cannabis use during pregnancy in keeping with previous studies revealing the potential negative effects on fetuses like developing mental health problems in early youth, negative effects on brain developmentautism risk, and higher levels of anxiety, aggression, and hyperactivity in children.

The new research noted that babies born to women who received hospital care for marijuana use had higher chances of being born preterm and needing neonatal intensive care.

“We can say quite confidently that these rare but severe events have gone up,” said Dr. Daniel Myran, the study’s lead author and a family physician who is a fellow at the Bruyère Research Institute and The Ottawa Hospital.“The concern is: Is this the tip of the iceberg of a much larger trend in general cannabis use during pregnancy?”

Myran added that some of the previous studies have linked marijuana use in pregnancy to a higher risk of stillbirth, preterm birth and a baby born with low birth weight.

“I think it’s really important to have a good discussion with your medical provider, preferably before planning a pregnancy, so that you can understand some of the risks and different options that you have,” said Dr. Darine El-Chaâr, one of the study’s authors and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the Ottawa Hospital. 

Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Reche via Pexels

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Posted In: CannabisNewsMarketsCanadian Medical Association Journalcannabis and pregnancyCannabis CanadaDaniel MyranDarine El-Chaârmarijuana pregnancyOntario Cannabis
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