THC-Exposure During Pregnancy Affects Fetal Development, Study Shows

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A recent study has warned that THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) exposure during pregnancy could have long-term effects on the child’s development. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis whose popularity in the recent past has grown considerably in the US. Many pregnant individuals are using cannabis to relieve first-trimester symptoms, but the lack of safety data on prenatal cannabis use makes the impact on fetal development uncertain.

Cannabis use during pregnancy can affect fetal development

According to the study conducted at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), consuming THC while pregnant may have lasting effects on fetal development and the health of the child. The findings emphasize the importance of being cautious about cannabis use during pregnancy.

The OHSU researchers used a non-human animal model to study the effects of THC exposure during pregnancy. They found that THC caused changes in the placental and fetal epigenome, which regulates gene expression. These changes were similar to those seen in neurobehavioral conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These conditions can lead to negative health outcomes in childhood and adolescence, including memory problems, impaired verbal reasoning, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention.

THC leads to epigenetic changes during parental development

Lead study author Lyndsey Shorey-Kendrick said that marijuana is among the most used drugs and easily accessible in the US and there is a general perception that it’s safe to use. However, Lyndsey notes that cannabis poses health risks to specific groups especially pregnant women. Therefore, it is important to understand the impacts for effective communication about these risks to patients and promoting safe habits during the prenatal period.

In the primate study, THC was given daily through edibles and compared to a placebo group. The researchers analyzed epigenetic changes in important areas for prenatal development, such as the placenta, brain, fetal lung, and heart. THC exposure caused alterations in the epigenome, which is concerning during pregnancy’s critical developmental phase.

The researchers expect their work to contribute to the limited literature on THC’s impact on the fetus during pregnancy but more studies are necessary to validate their findings.

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