PREGNANCY and CANNABIS: THC leaves an epigenetic trace in the child

PREGNANCY and CANNABIS: THC leaves an epigenetic trace in the child

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, a substance that is becoming increasingly available: thus, the prevalence of cannabis use during pregnancy is also growing rapidly, especially in the first trimester, the period of morning sickness. However, it is during this period that the fetus is most vulnerable to environmental influences.

The health effects of THC in utero are long-term: THC consumption during pregnancy potentially affects fetal development, but also has lifelong health effects on the child.

Studying conducted in a non-human primate model. Some animals received THC in their daily diet, others did not, and the researchers identified and assessed epigenetic changes in several key areas, including the fetal placenta, lungs, brain and heart. Analyzes show that:

  • maternal exposure to THC during pregnancy alters the epigenome of the placenta and fetus, causing chemical modifications of DNA that affect gene regulation and expression;
  • These changes in gene expression are consistent with changes observed in many common neurobehavioral conditions, including autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Cannabis is one of the most commonly used substances and is widely available. The trend is more toward the idea that its use is completely safe, summarizes lead author Lindsey Shorey-Kendrick, a biologist at OHSU: “The reality is that cannabis poses numerous health risks to certain populations, including pregnant women, fetuses and infants, children and adolescents.”

“This is not standard practice for doctors and women’s health professionals.

discuss cannabis use with your pregnant patients

or trying to get pregnant. This study calls for a broader dialogue about the risks of preconception and prenatal cannabis use to protect the long-term health of unborn children.

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