Objective: To identify neurobehavioral effects of prenatal marijuana exposure on neonates in rural Jamaica.
Design: Ethnographic field studies and standardized neuro-behavior assessments during the neonatal period.
Setting: Rural Jamaica in heavy-marijuana-using population.
Participants: Twenty-four Jamaican neonates exposed to marijuana prenatally and 20 nonexposed neonates.
Measurements and main results: Exposed and nonexposed neonates were compared at 3 days and 1 month old, using the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale, including supplementary items to capture possible subtle effects. There were no significant differences between exposed and nonexposed neonates on day 3. At 1 month, the exposed neonates showed better physiological stability and required less examiner facilitation to reach organized states. The neonates of heavy-marijuana-using mothers had better scores on autonomic stability, quality of alertness, irritability, and self-regulation and were judged to be more rewarding for caregivers.
Conclusions: The absence of any differences between the exposed on nonexposed groups in the early neonatal period suggest that the better scores of exposed neonates at 1 month are traceable to the cultural positioning and social and economic characteristics of mothers using marijuana that select for the use of marijuana but also promote neonatal development.