It is known that consumption of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis during pregnancy is associated with poor birth results, yet many women continue to use these substances during pregnancy.
Researchers at Western University and its affiliate Brescia University College have now shown that depression is the main driving factor in substance use during pregnancy, highlighting the need for more support for the mental health of pregnant mothers.
The research team analyzed the health and geographical data collected Lawson Health Research Institute by over 25,000 pregnant women in southwestern Ontario.
"Pregnant women who were depressed were 2.6 times more likely to use cannabis and twice as likely to smoke cigarettes and use alcohol during pregnancy," said Jamie Seabrook, PhD and associate professor in Brescia and Western Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistryand scientist at the children's health research institute, a Lawson program. "We do not know when the use of substances began for the first time, but we know that it continued during pregnancy and this is a great risk factor for poor results on the health of the mother and the child."
The she studies, published in the Journal of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, is the first Canadian study with a sample size so large as to show that depression during pregnancy is the main risk factor for cannabis, tobacco and alcohol use and is more important than education, income, or age.
"This really highlights the importance of mental health planning, including mental health promotion strategies, psychotherapy and safe and adequate mental health medications during pregnancy," said Rachel Brown, a Masters candidate and first author of the document. "Research shows that there is an effect later also in life with children who are born preterm or low birth weight. To intervene or defend the mental health programs for the mother, the idea is to create children's health later in life. "
The research team points out that this research is particularly important in Canada with the recent legalization of recreational cannabis.
"We help women with their mental health improve their overall health and, in doing so, improve their child's health," Seabrook said.
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