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expert reaction to a study looking at maternal cannabis use and anxiety in offspring

A study published in PNAS looks at maternal cannabis use and offspring anxiety.


Dr Giulia Trotta, Research Assistant, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, KCL, said:

“The manuscript covers a very relevant topic by aiming to examine the impact of maternal cannabis use on the relationship between immune system function and anxiety-related problems among young children. The study identified a significant association of maternal cannabis use with increased cortisol, anxiety, aggression, and hyperactivity in early childhood. The findings corroborate the hypothesis of the authors, suggesting that in utero immunomodulatory effects of cannabis may have an impact on child development and behaviour.

“Despite minor limitations, the authors should be recognized for their effort in presenting relevant data from a well-designed longitudinal study. The analyses were controlled for parental age, education, marital status, prenatal substance use, child’s sex, age and ethnicity, providing of more certainty about that the identified relationships are independent of the effects of these potentially confounding factors. Retrospective evaluations of cannabis use have some limitations, however studies with laboratory data and self-reported information have shown that cannabis users reliably report their consumption.”


Dr Daghni Rajasingam, consultant obstetrician & spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“This new study supports a growing body of evidence that smoking cannabis during pregnancy is associated with adverse outcomes for women and their children.

“We know from previous studies that using cannabis during pregnancy is linked to impaired fetal brain development, stillbirth, low birth weight, and pre-term birth. This new evidence adds to these existing safety concerns, suggesting that cannabis use in pregnancy could lead to higher anxiety, aggression, hyperactivity, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the children.

“There is only a small sample of women and children used in this study and we would like to see more research done in this area.

“We would recommend any woman who is using cannabis regularly and is either pregnant or trying for a baby seek medical advice and support from their healthcare professionals, who can help them stop using cannabis and avoid withdrawal problems or other side effects.”



‘Maternal cannabis use is associated with suppression of immune gene networks in placenta and increased anxiety phenotypes in offspring” by Gregory Rompala et al. was published in PNAS at 20:00 UK time on Monday 15 November.



Declared interests

None received.

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