Any form of smoking, drug abuse, and alcohol consumption during pregnancy is highly forbidden and severely frowned down upon by everyone, simply because it is harmful to the fetus. Tobacco in itself is extremely harmful to a developing child, which is why marijuana can have effects far more detrimental and irreparable than tobacco.
Researchers studied the effects of marijuana on mice and brain tissue from human fetuses. The mice were chosen due to the similarities between humans and mice, and the fetuses were those voluntarily aborted by mothers who used to smoke marijuana. It was discovered that the THC found in Marijuana i.e. tetrahydrocannabinol, interfered in the developmental phase by restricting and interfering with synapse formation and the formation of connections between nerve cells in the cerebral cortex. These connections in this part of the brain are incredibly important for thinking and forming memories.
These interferences could severely impair thinking and cognitive abilities, proper development and memory formation in the child. Researchers have stated that the effects of this interference and lack of proper synapse production could very well linger on and last until adulthood.
Before this particular research was published, multiple studies had highlighted the fact that smoking marijuana during pregnancy could increase the risks of a child developing cognitive deficits or psychological/psychiatric disorders. Previous studies have shown that children that had been exposed to marijuana in the womb had a higher risk of showing cognitive deficits, seeking out and becoming addicted to drugs, or having ADHC, depression or anxiety. The fact that even smoking marijuana a little while before conception can have significant risks for the woman’s pregnancy likelihood shows us just how dangerous exposure to marijuana can be.
Though even this particular research could not properly explain how THC acted on a molecular level to impair synapse formation, it seemed as if the brain was highly sensitive to THC during the early developmental phase. During this phase, neurons tend to be forming connections that are imperative for proper functioning of the brain and the body. A drug such as THC that interferes with this connection formation could very well result in severe developmental issues in the child.
The study was done in three main ways:
- Brain cells from mice were grown in the presence of considerable THC
- Pregnant mice were injected with THC
- And the brains of voluntarily aborted human fetuses whose mothers were avid smokers of marijuana during pregnancy were studied
This study resulted in the identification of a protein called SCG10 i.e. Superior Cervical Ganglion 10, which is a major portion of normal brain wiring. This means that all connections in the brain and brain cells are made with the help of this protein. In the brains of both human and mouse fetuses that had had relatively high exposure to THC, lower levels of this protein were found.
Sadly, the number of pregnant women who smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes, abuse alcohol and smoke marijuana seems to be increasing day by day. These women are unaware of just how dangerous these chemicals and toxic substances are for their bodies as well as their children’s. The severity of marijuana’s effect on the fetus’s brain is such that even the use of medicinal marijuana has been forbidden for pregnant women.
No studies as such have compared the link between the effect of alcohol or other drugs to the effect of marijuana on the development of a fetus’s brain. Research must be encouraged in this field, and awareness campaigns, and programs must be formulated to ensure that women are aware of the health risks involved with smoking marijuana while pregnant.