Is there a connection between frequent cannabis use and having premature babies?

20th August 2021

A recent study has found that teenagers that partake in frequent cannabis use may be more likely to have premature babies up to 20 years later.

According to research published in the Scientific Reports, children of parents aged 29 and over who had consumed cannabis on a daily basis between ages 15 and 17 were estimated to be considerably more likely to be born preterm or to have a low birth weight, when compared to babies born to parents who hadn’t used cannabis as teenagers.

Dr Lindsey Hines, Research Fellow in Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences (PHS) at the University of Bristol, said: “Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug amongst teenagers. There is already evidence that frequent adolescent cannabis use increases the risks for poor mental health, but our results indicate there may be further effects that individuals may not anticipate.

“As regulations around legal use liberalise, there is a possibility that adolescent use may increase in some countries. These findings provide additional motivation for ensuring that policy changes do not lead to greater adolescent use.”

The use of cannabis and tobacco use when pregnant have been linked to babies being born pre-term and having low birth weight – leading to an increased risk of health problems.

George Patton, Professorial Fellow in Adolescent Health Research with the University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, added: “The more we study heavy cannabis use in the teens, the more problematic it looks.

“Given growing political and industry drivers for legalisation of use, there is a pressing need for bigger and better research into understanding harms arising from heavy adolescent use.”

The findings are part of a 20-year prospective study, which followed parents from their teenage years into their 30s. The study found that 20% of all preterm births occurred in parents who had used cannabis daily during their teenage years.

The Independent reports the data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that almost every one in five people aged between 16 and 18 have used cannabis between March 2019 and 2020.

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