Women who use marijuana can more than double the risk of giving birth to a baby prematurely, a new study has revealed.
Preterm or premature birth – at least three weeks before a baby’s due date – can result in serious and life-threatening health problems for the baby, and an increased risk of health problems in later life, such as heart disease and diabetes.
A large international study, of more than 3000 pregnant women in Adelaide, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand has detailed the most common risk factors for preterm birth.
The research team, led by Professor Gus Dekker from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute and the Lyell McEwin Hospital, found a number of risks for spontaneous preterm birth.
These risks include strong family history of low birth weight babies, use of marijuana prior to pregnancy, having a mother with a history of pre-eclampsia, having a history of vaginal bleeds and having a mother with diabetes type 1 or 2.
The team also found that the greatest risk factors involved in the preterm rupture of membranes leading to birth included mild hypertension not requiring treatment, family history of recurrent gestational diabetes, receiving some forms of hormonal fertility treatment and having a body mass index of less than 20.
“Our study has found that the risk factors for both forms of preterm birth vary greatly, with a wide variety of health conditions and histories impacting on preterm birth,” Professor Dekker, who is the lead author of the study, said.
“Better understanding the risk factors involved in preterm birth moves us another step forward in potentially developing a test – genetic or otherwise – that will help us to predict with greater accuracy the risk of preterm birth. Our ultimate aim is to safeguard the lives of babies and their health in the longer term,” he added.