New research links marijuana to premature births

By Talisa Kupenga

Māori health providers are welcoming new research that shows the impact of smoking marijuana while pregnant. Findings show women who continue to smoke cannabis while pregnant are five times more likely to have spontaneous pre-term births.

Odyssey House health worker Ken Kerehoma says marijuana addiction is a very real issue for pregnant women.

“Day in day out we see pregnant women who are addicted to smoking marijuana.”

The Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints research shows women who continued to smoked cannabis while pregnant are at a higher risk of pre-term births.

Researcher Professor Lesley McCowan says, “that’s a birth less than 37-weeks and that’s important because these babies are more likely to die after birth and to have long-term health problems when they grow up.”

Around 3000 babies are born pre-term every year. More than 200 of these births are due to mothers smoking marijuana while pregnant.

Professor McCowan says, “One of the scary things that we identified in this study was that some women use marijuana to help with morning sickness and it is really important that we discourage that practice.”

Kerehoma says mothers need to break the stigma.

“Don't be shy. Don't be afraid. Speak up. This is really important. Don't keep this issue in the closet. Seek help.”

They hope this research will improve outcomes for expectant mothers.