By LeeWEpstein

August 28, 2020


A recent study in Canada found a link between the use of cannabis during and the risk of a child developing autism.

Women who used cannabis during pregnancy were 1.5 times more likely to have a child with autism, said study author Dr. Darine El-Chaâr, a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine and a clinical researcher at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada.


These are not reassurance results. We strongly discourage cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, she said.

The study, published in the journal Nature, examined data from every birth in Ontario between 2007 and 2012. Of the half-million women in the data pool, researchers then narrowed the study to 2,200 women who reported using cannabis during pregnancy, without mixing it with tobacco, alcohol, or opioids.

The study did not know the amount and type of cannabis that women used during pregnancy. The trial also did not know at what stage of pregnancy or how often women used cannabis. And although the study could only show an association, not cause or effect, the researchers said they were doing their best to eliminate confounding factors.

Pain reduction, said El-Chaar, is the most common reason for cannabis use during pregnancy.

It helps with different conditions they may have or for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, said El-Chaar, “Some people (reported) using it to sleep or to reduce stress. Still, others use it for recreational purposes; it’s just part of their routine. 


The first trimester of pregnancy is the most sensitive time for the fetus’ brain development, said El-Chaar. Studies have found cannabis receptors in the brains of animals as early as 5 and 6 weeks of gestational age, she said. 


 It is possible to hypothesize that if there are cannabinoid receptors and the baby’s brain is exposed, it may have (an) effect on brain development.

 In the United States, different studies estimate that 2 and 8% of pregnant women had used cannabis during their pregnancy.  

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