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Study: Smoking weed while pregnant lowers infant birth weight
While many people don't think its all that bad, a new study suggests you should lay off while expecting.
- A new study suggests that smoking weed during pregnancy reduces birth weight and gestational age.
- The study follows on the heels of several others suggesting that marijuana has a variety of negative side effects.
- Despite this, many people still consider marijuana to be harmless.
A new study out of Australia has confirmed that smoking marijuana during pregnancy leads to a variety of neonatal issues. These findings, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, were found to endure even after accounting for a variety of other factors and add to a growing pile of studies suggesting that marijuana is not as harmless as many people believe.
What happens when you smoke for two
The study worked with 5628 pregnant women in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom who were also part of a separate study investigating the relationship between marijuana use and pregnancy complications. These women had their demographic information, lifestyle characteristics, and medical history collected by a midwife.
All participants were asked if they ever smoked marijuana and, if so, if had they smoked it at any point during their pregnancy. Those who did smoke were further asked how many times a week they partook. Similar questions were asked for alcohol and tobacco usage. The midwives also recorded socio-economic data, noted if the test subject had used other illicit drugs during their pregnancy, and administered tests checking for depression and anxiety. After the test subjects gave birth, the midwives recorded infants' size and weight.
The babies born to women who smoked past the 15-week point in their pregnancies had lower birth weights, head size, body length, and lower gestational age. The reductions were comparable to the known effects of an expecting mother smoking nine cigarettes a day. These effects were more dramatic for children born to mothers who smoked more frequently. The risk of infant death and the rate of severe infant morbidity increased with the frequency of smoking as well.
Women who stopped smoking before the 15th week gave birth to babies with similar measurements to those born to women who did not smoke.
The evidence behind these findings remained even after factoring for tobacco and alcohol usage. While those lower on the socio-economic scale were more likely to continue smoking during pregnancy than others, their lower social standing was found to have no direct relation to birth outcomes.
The study was not without limitations. The number of women who reported continuing to smoke throughout their pregnancy was comparatively low, though not so small as to reduce the validity of the findings.
The researchers only looked at the number of times a person smoked and not at the potency of the marijuana or how it was consumed. They also looked at the effects of taking other illicit substances, but the number of women taking them was low enough to make serious investigation impossible during this study.
Perhaps most importantly, the study did not investigate what mechanism is at work. It could be simple carbon monoxide production by the act of smoking cutting down on oxygen that is getting to the fetus, as with tobacco smoking. Or it could be that the chemicals in marijuana were affecting the fetus. This is an area where further research is needed.
So, what does this mean for me?
The first take away here is that you shouldn't smoke weed while pregnant. The second is that it might not be too late to stop.
Previous studies have suggested that a lower gestational age at birth is associated with lower literacy later in life and that children in families with lower social standing start behind their wealthier peers in literacy tests. The finding here that lower-income women are more likely to smoke during pregnancy suggests that their children may be subject to particular difficulties.
The study is yet another one suggesting that marijuana isn't as harmless as many people suppose. The drug is known to cause memory trouble, anxiety, and increase the risk of psychotic symptoms. Previous studies similar to this one already hinted at the effects of smoking on the newly born. This one didn't break new ground so much as remove hidden variables in previous experiments on the same subject.
Despite this, up to a third of women think marijuana can't harm a gestating fetus, and the popular conception of the drug has yet to incorporate notions of its various adverse side effects.
Perhaps the take away for those who are not or cannot become pregnant is that marijuana isn't completely harmless and should be interacted with as such.
- Does smoking marijuana make it harder for couples to have children? ›
- Which is Worse? Alcohol or Marijuana? - Big Think ›
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Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
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