Prenatal marijuana exposure and neonatal outcomes in Jamaica: an ethnographic study

Pediatrics. 1994 Feb;93(2):254-60.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Cannabis*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Behavior / drug effects*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Jamaica
  • Marijuana Smoking / ethnology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Socioeconomic Factors