Marijuana impairs growth in mid-gestation fetuses

Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2005 Mar-Apr;27(2):221-9. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2004 Dec 8.


Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) is the most commonly used illicit drug by pregnant women, but information is limited about the effects of prenatal cannabis exposure on fetal development. The present study evaluated the influence of early maternal marijuana use on fetal growth. Women electing voluntary saline-induced abortions were recruited at a mid-gestational stage of pregnancy (weeks 17-22), and detailed drug use and medical histories were obtained. Toxicological assays (maternal urine and fetal meconium) were used in conjunction with the maternal report to assign groups. Subjects with documented cocaine and opiate use were excluded. Main developmental outcome variables were fetal weight, foot length, body length, and head circumference; ponderal index was also examined. Analyses were adjusted for maternal alcohol and cigarette use. Marijuana (n=44)- and nonmarijuana (n=95)-exposed fetuses had similar rates of growth with increased age. However, there was a 0.08-cm (95% CI -0.15 to -0.01) and 14.53-g (95% CI -28.21 to 0.86) significant reduction of foot length and body weight, respectively, for marijuana-exposed fetuses. Moreover, fetal foot length development was negatively correlated with the amount and frequency of marijuana use reported by the mothers. These findings provide evidence of a negative impact of prenatal marijuana exposure on the mid-gestational fetal growth even when adjusting for maternal use of other substances well known to impair fetal development.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight / drug effects
  • Body Height / drug effects
  • Cannabis / toxicity*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / drug effects*
  • Fetal Weight / drug effects
  • Fetus
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Marijuana Smoking / physiopathology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / urine
  • Meconium / drug effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*