Is prenatal exposure to cannabis associated with child outcomes?
This cross-sectional analysis of 11 489 children (655 exposed to cannabis prenatally) found that prenatal cannabis exposure after maternal knowledge of pregnancy was associated with greater psychopathology during middle childhood, even after accounting for potentially confounding variables.
Prenatal cannabis exposure may increase risk for psychopathology; consistent with recent recommendations by the Surgeon General of the United States, these data suggest that cannabis use during pregnancy should be discouraged by clinicians and dispensaries.
In light of increasing cannabis use among pregnant women, the US Surgeon General recently issued an advisory against the use of marijuana during pregnancy.
To evaluate whether cannabis use during pregnancy is associated with adverse outcomes among offspring.
Design, Setting, and Participants
In this cross-sectional study, data were obtained from the baseline session of the ongoing longitudinal Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study, which recruited 11 875 children aged 9 to 11 years, as well as a parent or caregiver, from 22 sites across the United States between June 1, 2016, and October 15, 2018.
Prenatal cannabis exposure prior to and after maternal knowledge of pregnancy.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Symptoms of psychopathology in children (ie, psychotic-like experiences [PLEs] and internalizing, externalizing, attention, thought, and social problems), cognition, sleep, birth weight, gestational age at birth, body mass index, and brain structure (ie, total intracranial volume, white matter volume, and gray matter volume). Covariates included familial (eg, income and familial psychopathology), pregnancy (eg, prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco), and child (eg, substance use) variables.
Among 11 489 children (5997 boys [52.2%]; mean [SD] age, 9.9 [0.6] years) with nonmissing prenatal cannabis exposure data, 655 (5.7%) were exposed to cannabis prenatally. Relative to no exposure, cannabis exposure only before (413 [3.6%]) and after (242 [2.1%]) maternal knowledge of pregnancy were associated with greater offspring psychopathology characteristics (ie, PLEs and internalizing, externalizing, attention, thought and, social problems), sleep problems, and body mass index, as well as lower cognition and gray matter volume (all |β| > 0.02; all false discovery rate [FDR]–corrected P < .03). Only exposure after knowledge of pregnancy was associated with lower birth weight as well as total intracranial volume and white matter volumes relative to no exposure and exposure only before knowledge (all |β| > 0.02; all FDR-corrected P < .04). When including potentially confounding covariates, exposure after maternal knowledge of pregnancy remained associated with greater PLEs and externalizing, attention, thought, and social problems (all β > 0.02; FDR-corrected P < .02). Exposure only prior to maternal knowledge of pregnancy did not differ from no exposure on any outcomes when considering potentially confounding variables (all |β| < 0.02; FDR-corrected P > .70).
Conclusions and Relevance
This study suggests that prenatal cannabis exposure and its correlated factors are associated with greater risk for psychopathology during middle childhood. Cannabis use during pregnancy should be discouraged.
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Paul SE, Hatoum AS, Fine JD, et al. Associations Between Prenatal Cannabis Exposure and Childhood Outcomes: Results From the ABCD Study. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online September 23, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.2902
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