News Week: PREGNANT WOMEN ARE USING MARIJUANA FOR MORNING SICKNESS. STUDY ON RATS SUGGESTS THIS COULD AFFECT BABY’S BRAIN

medicinal-cannabis

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Using cannabis while pregnant to ease morning sickness could damage the brain of a fetus, scientists who studied rats have warned.

Between 2002 and 2014, the rates of women using cannabis during pregnancy spiked by 62 percent in the U.S., and marijuana is the illicit drug used most commonly by pregnant women, according to the researchers at Auburn University, Alabama. Expectant mothers turn to the drug because it can treat the symptoms of morning sickness.

As more U.S. states legalize the drug and the stigma surrounding its use falls away, scientists wanted to investigate the potential harm to their fetuses expectant mothers could be causing.

Past studies have indicated that coming into contact with cannabis in the womb can change how the brain’s networks develop, and can cause cognitive and behavioral problems in children “leading to a long-lasting effects on adult behavior,” the authors wrote.

In this new study, the researchers looked at how cannabis might affect the hippocampus: the part of the brain involved in memory and learning. They did this by exposing pregnant female rats to a synthetic chemical that acts similarly to cannabis at 2 mg/kg, until their pups were born. The dose was comparable to an expectant mother using moderate to high levels of cannabis.

The brain connections in the baby rats exposed to synthetic cannabis in the womb were found to be reduced in comparison to the animals who didn’t encounter the drug. The animals also underwent behavioral tests.

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