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Reading: Consequences of foetal and neonatal cannabis exposure


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Life – Education

Consequences of foetal and neonatal cannabis exposure


Sarra Alexia Griti

University of St Andrews, GB
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The increasing social and legal acceptance of cannabis around the world is driven by a growing body of research that points to several medical benefits, however, there remain significant risks to certain members of the population. More specifically, the maternal use of cannabis during pregnancy is associated with several adverse foetal and neonatal health consequences. While the volume of evidence is mixed, infants from women who used cannabis during pregnancy were more likely to be anaemic, have decreased birth weight and be placed in neonatal intensive care compared to infants whose mothers did not use cannabis. Findings from human and animal trials suggest that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) may be the key chemicals responsible for many of the abnormal neurodevelopment issues such as long-term impairment in cognitive function resulting from structural alterations in synaptic plasticity. There is limited information available in the literature around the assessment of safe threshold limits, the effects of cannabis exclusive of other drugs and the long-term outcomes in the offspring. As the popularity of cannabis increases, it is important that these data gaps be addressed to provide proper guidance to women and their health care team during pregnancy. 


The societal trend towards cannabis use raises the probability that medical students and practicing physicians will encounter pregnant women using cannabis in some form. Understanding the potential risks of maternal cannabis exposure on foetal development and pregnancy outcomes provides the knowledge required to share appropriate information and guidance with female patients during preconception, pregnancy and lactation. This in turn allows for the implementation of more comprehensive optimum wellness plans for the mother and child.

Take Home Messages:

As societies and lawmakers around the world increasingly accept the use of cannabis, it’s important that medical professionals have a basic knowledge of the possible risks posed to certain vulnerable members of the population. This article provides a step in that direction.

How to Cite: Griti SA. Consequences of foetal and neonatal cannabis exposure. The British Student Doctor Journal. 2019;3(2):27–33. DOI:
Published on 30 Jun 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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