Study: marijuana use in 1st trimester can harm fetal development during pregnancy

A new study has found a significant health impact of marijuana use on fetal development as early as the first or second trimester.
Published: May. 16, 2023 at 4:56 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - A new study has found a significant health impact of marijuana use on fetal development as early as the first or second trimester.

Western Mass News is getting answers on what this means for moms here in western Massachusetts. We spoke with Dr. Heather Sankey of Baystate Health, who told us that marijuana use seems to be pretty popular with women in western Massachusetts, and some people do use it for nausea while pregnant, but she said that can be a catch 22.

According to the study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, marijuana use can harm fetal development in the first trimester before many women even know they’re pregnant.

Dr. Sankey, the chair for OB/GYN at Baystate Health, told Western Mass News that the study found that using marijuana while pregnant can impact babies’ growth, which can lead to more issues down the road.

“That leads to impacts on the child as it grows, because it may even be more difficult in regulating their own sort of metabolism and body weight because they started out at a disadvantage,” she explained.

Dr. Sankey told us that although using cannabis while pregnant tends to lead to smaller newborns, they found it can later cause childhood obesity and diabetes.

“There’s sort of a catch-up period of time, and I think that this adds to knowledge we know that marijuana use can actually impact fertility for both men and women, and if it’s going to have an impact on the first and second trimester, then really, anyone who’s planning to conceive should stop marijuana use,” she said.

For this reason, Dr. Sankey said that they typically tell new moms to try and cut out any unhealthy substances at least three months before trying to get pregnant. She made it clear that these negative effects can also come from consuming edible marijuana like brownies or candy.

She also pointed out that, historically, they had trouble studying the effects of marijuana because it wasn’t legal.

“We’re doing a study on E cigarettes in pregnancy, and one of the exclusions is if you’re using marijuana, we can’t have you in the study, and this is a multi-state study,” Dr. Sankey said. “We found that it’s a problem for people in Colorado and Massachusetts, where people are willingly admitting to using marijuana, but in Connecticut, it doesn’t happen. My guess is it’s not a real difference in use or the difference in comfort level of admitting they are using it.”

Doctor Sankey told us that she does not believe that Massachusetts necessarily has more pregnant women who use marijuana. However, she does believe it may have to do with how comfortable people are to admitting to it in the states where it has been legalized.