Daily Mail April 2019 11:16
Using marijuana during pregnancy to treat morning sickness could damage an unborn baby's brain, a new study says.
Research conducted on rats found that expecting mothers who used cannabis affected the section of the brain involved in memory and learning.
The rate of pregnant women using pot for severe nausea and vomiting has increased by 11.3 percent over the last decade and by more than 62 percent for general overall use.
Previous studies have shown that children born to women who used marijuana during pregnancy are more likely to develop cognitive and behavioral problems.
The team, from Auburn University in Alabama, says its findings confirm pot's harmful effects on developing brains and advise that there are no safe levels when it comes to expectant mothers.
'Marijuana is becoming one of the most consumed drugs in pregnancy, but we know from past studies that it has harmful effects on developing brains,' co-author Priyanka Das Pinky, a graduate student at Auburn University, told DailyMail.com.
For the new study, the team wanted to examine the effects cannabis use could have on a fetus's hippocampus, which is responsible for processing memory and emotional responses.
They raised pregnant female rats and exposed one group to a synthetic chemical that acts similarly to marijuana.
The dose was equivalent to a pregnant human mother using moderate to heavy amounts of cannabis.
When the baby rats were born, the researchers examined their brains and found that the nerve connections in the 'brain's memory bank' were reduced in rats exposed to synthetic pot in the womb compared to those that weren't exposed.
Researchers found that this was due to a reduction in a protein known as Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule (NCAM), which helps maintain neural connections and strength.
'When we examined what was causing this, we found this molecule in brain was not maintaining proper connection in neurons,' Pinky said. 'There has not been much data on this molecule before, so that was exciting to see.