Researchers at the University of Washington are preparing for a study focused on cannabis use by pregnant mothers and how it might affect infant brain and medical health, social behavior, and cognitive and motor development.
UW School of Medicine radiologists, Dr. Natalia Kleinhans and Dr. Stephen Dager will lead the study, Moms + Marijuana, which will track participants’ marijuana use from the first trimester throughout the rest of the pregnancy and then evaluate the infants at six months of age to identify any possible effects from exposure to cannabis.
A primary goal of the study is to clarify the effects of cannabis where the use of other substances is not a factor.
Dr. Kleinhans says that there are very few studies that have looked into cannabis use by pregnant mothers without the influence of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
“This study is targeting a very specific population of women who are using marijuana to manage their symptoms while they’re pregnant,” said Dr. Kleinhans. “There’s little research to back up the medical and public health advice they’re getting to stay away from pot to control nausea.”
Kleinhans and Dager are looking to enroll 70 women in the study who are 13 weeks pregnant or less; 35 for a test group that does not use alcohol, cannabis, or tobacco, and 35 for a group that uses marijuana twice a week, primarily for morning sickness.
Study participants will be required to submit weekly reports detailing their cannabis use and purchases, which must be made from licensed retailers.
Participants must also submit digital photos of product packaging so researchers can record tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol ( CBD) levels.
Periodic drug tests will also be a part of the study to verify that participants aren’t using other substances and to maintain the integrity of the research.
At six months of age, infants will receive a formal evaluation of their communication and motor skills, temperament, cognitive and social development, and other behaviors.
Researchers will compile behavioral data and MRI images to identify any differences between babies who had been exposed to cannabis and those who had not.
Participants will receive $300 for completing all portions of the study.