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Pot During Pregnancy causes child psychosis?

marijuana  photo , Children born to mothers who smoke marijuana during pregnancy may have an increased risk for psychosis, according to new research done at Washington University in St. Louis. The authors of this study, Jeremy Fine and Ryan Bogdan, analyzed data from a nationwide study of child health and brain development.

The nationwide study covered 4,400 children born to about 3,800 mothers between 2005 and 2008. It was determined that 201 of those children were exposed to marijuana in the womb , 63 after their mothers knew they were pregnant.

“Our research shows that prenatal marijuana exposure after maternal knowledge of pregnancy is associated with a small increase in psychosis proneness during middle childhood or about age 10,” Fine said in a university news release. He and his coauthor suggest that the “endocannabinoid receptor system” may not be in place during the early weeks of pregnancy. Endocannabinoids are part of the naturally occurring neurotransmitter network through which cannabis affects the brain, they explain.

Viewed from a different angle, it is known that marijuana causes some psychotic like states, such as delusions, distortions and hallucinations. This is especially true of the stronger kinds of marijuana that are around today. If a mother uses the stronger marijuana and it puts her into a temporary psychotic state, think about what it might be doing the her unborn infant’s undeveloped brain. Indeed, there have been reported cases in which marijuana use has caused certain people, those who are perhaps predisposed to it, to have psychotic breaks.

Knowing these things makes it seem not too far-fetched to be concerned about the effect of a mother’s smoking marijuana during pregnancy. Even though this is only one research project and it has yet to be validated, it is better to stay on the safe side.

Compounding this possible problem are suggestions, primarily by marijuana dispensaries, that marijuana is a remedy for pregnancy related nausea. And since the number of recreational marijuana users is growing rapidly due to the legalization of pot in many states

A 2018 Washington University study reported that past-month marijuana use among pregnant women rose sharply between 2002 (nearly 3%) and 2016 (just under 5%). As more states legalize medicinal and recreational pot, other studies have found that many dispensaries suggest marijuana as a remedy for pregnancy-related nausea.

The study of the effect of pot during pregnancy, which was published in the March 27 issue of JAMA Psychiatry, could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between smoking pot during pregnancy and later child psychosis, but it did establish a statistical link.

The March of Dimes, in related news, recently posted guidelines for mothers with regard to smoking marijuana during pregnancy. Among their guidelines: 1) Use of marijuana during pregnancy may cause premature birth, faulty brain development and even still birth; 2) Marijuana is not safe for dealing with morning sickness; Breast-feeding during marijuana use may cause toxic chemicals to pass into the body of a fetus, causing harm.

The study reported above makes a somewhat alarming claim—a link between pot smoking during pregnancy and a slight risk of psychosis—and it should be thoroughly investigated. Whether the claim holds up under more intensive scrutiny remains to be seen.

Pot During Pregnancy causes child psychosis?

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2019). Pot During Pregnancy causes child psychosis?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Apr 2019
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