Cannabis & Pregnancy

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RESEARCHERS:  Natalia Kleinhans, PhD and Stephen Dager, M.D.

What is being studied? When the morning sickness starts to kick in, you might start to wonder: is using marijuana to alleviate nausea safe for your baby? Most studies of prenatal cannabis exposure have focused on addiction, with pregnant participants using alcohol and other substances in addition to marijuana. That’s why University of Washington researchers, led by Natalia Kleinhans, are recruiting participants for a new study designed to look at the effects of marijuana alone on prenatal development. If you participate, you will meet with researchers three times during pregnancy, then bring in your baby at six months old for behavioral assessments and an MRI scan. All study procedures are approved for confidentiality and safety by the National Institutes of Health and by the University of Washington Human Subjects Division.

Why should I participate? You will earn up to $300 for completing all parts of the study. You will also have the opportunity to receive digital images of your baby’s brain, along with a developmental report and feedback session by phone with the licensed psychologist who conducts the behavioral assessments. We do not expect to find anything of medical concern during the infant MRI scans, but if we do see anything in the images that may indicate a health issue, you will be referred to a physician. You will also help provide reliable information to others who want to make informed decisions about their pregnancies in the future.

What does study participation involve? If you participate, you will meet with researchers three times while you are pregnant to complete urine-based drug tests and questionnaires. During pregnancy, you will fill out secure surveys online each week documenting your daily use of marijuana products and other substances, in addition to questions related to mood and nausea. All information that you provide as part of this study is kept confidential.

After you give birth, we will make sure you still qualify for the study with a phone interview, and then you and your baby will visit us at the age of six months. Visit activities include infant developmental examinations by a licensed clinical psychologist, parent questionnaires, and an MRI brain scan for your baby in the evening. During the brain scan, your baby will be sleeping naturally. Our MRI scan does not involve any radiation, and you will be able to stay in the room with your baby during the scan, along with an experienced researcher who will be there the entire time to make sure your baby is healthy and happy.

Who can participate? Participants must be pregnant less than 13 weeks, must be 21–34 years of age, and must either consume marijuana frequently or not at all. There are additional eligibility requirements that will be assessed in a phone screen. If you would like to be a part of this study, please reach out to us using the button or contact information at the top of this page. If you aren’t eligible or don’t want to participate, you can still help by spreading the word about our study in your communities!

Where can I learn more? Please visit the University of Washington for full information.