Association between gestational cannabis exposure and maternal, perinatal, placental, and childhood outcomes

J Dev Orig Health Dis. 2020 Dec 7;1-10. doi: 10.1017/S2040174420001166. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Globally, the availability and formulations for the administration of cannabis are changing with decriminalization or legalization of recreational use in some jurisdictions, and the prescription of cannabis also occurring. These changes are likely to affect the prevalence of use, including by women of childbearing age. The effects of in utero and infant alcohol and tobacco exposure are well-documented, but the outcomes of cannabis exposure are less certain. The content of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis has progressively increased over several decades. This review explores the limited knowledge surrounding the epidemiology of gestational and postnatal cannabis exposure and implications for the mother-placenta-fetus/neonate triad. We examine cannabis' effects from antenatal and lactation exposure on (a) pregnancy and perinatal outcomes, (b) placental health, and (c) longer term cardiometabolic and neurodevelopmental risks and outcomes. Though definitive outcomes are lacking, gestational cannabis has been associated with increased risk of other substance use during pregnancy; impaired placental blood flow; increased risk of small for gestational age births; and associated complications. Childhood and adolescent outcomes are sparsely assessed, with suggested outcomes including increased risk of depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Cardiometabolic implications of gestational cannabis use may include maternal fatty liver, obesity, insulin resistance, and increased risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), with potential consequences for the fetus. Clinical implications for pediatric practice were explored in a bid to understand any potential risk or impact on child health and development.

Keywords: Cannabis; fetus; maternal; placenta; pregnancy.