University of Washington to Study Marijuana’s Effects on Pregnancies

Rayen Luna Solar, 27, 33-week pregnant, is seen by a midwife in a routine checkup, in Santiago, on July 13, 2012. In Chile 38 percent of the births are carried out by caesarean section --with up to 60 percent in private hospitals-- the third highest rate in Latin America, following …
CLAUDIO SANTANA/AFP/GettyImages

The University of Washington is testing the impact of marijuana on unborn fetuses, according to a press release by the team of researchers working on the project. The study will include women who smoke marijuana while pregnant.

The University of Washington School of Medicine is preparing to study the impact of marijuana on unborn fetuses. In order to conduct the study, researchers will study pregnant women who smoke marijuana. The researchers will track the progress of the fetus until it is six months old.

The study, which was highlighted this week by Campus Reform, will be funded in part by a $190,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Lead researcher Dr. Natalia Kleinhans said in a press release that the study will expand this existing medical literature on the effect of marijuana on fetuses.

“The very few investigations that have studied prenatal cannabis exposure and infant brain development have all involved women who are polysubstance drug users. No one has looked at marijuana use exclusively,” Kleinhans said. “This study will also involve periodic drug testing during pregnancy to verify in real time that moms aren’t using other drugs, rather than relying on the mother’s self-report after the child is born.”

The women included in the study will be chosen based upon their personal choice to use marijuana to control morning sickness during their pregnancies.

“Most medications prescribed for morning sickness have not been rigorously tested in pregnant women and appear to have side effects that are not minor. Remember that thalidomide, a particularly extreme case, was given to women to reduce nausea during pregnancy.  Pregnant women have minimal drug-safety information to rely on when deciding whether to take a pharmaceutical, but it’s marijuana that has the negative connotation,” she added.

The female participants will be required to document their marijuana use during the study. They will only be permitted to smoke marijuana purchased from licensed distributors so that the researchers can gauge the levels of THC that each participant is taking in.

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