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Marijuana Use Doubles Risk of Premature Birth

Update Date: Jul 18, 2012 03:12 PM EDT

A study led by University of Adelaide researchers has concluded that women who use marijuana can more than double the risk of giving birth to a baby prematurely.

Premature birth occurs at least three weeks before a baby's due date and 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.

Lead author Gus Dekker said the study will help for future research.

"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," Dekker 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." 

Researchers studied more than 3,000 pregnant women in Australia and and New Zealand. 

The findings have been published online in the journal PLoS ONE.

According to researchers, women with strong family history of low birth weight babies are almost six times more likely to have premature babies. Having a mother with a history of pre-eclampsia and a history of vaginal bleeds also more than double the risk.  Also, women with a mother who has diabetes - type 1 or 2 - are at more than a double risk of having a premature baby. 

The findings have been published online in the journal PLoS ONE.

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