A large international study led by University of Adelaide researchers has found that women who use marijuana can more than double the risk of giving birth to a baby prematurely.
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 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 results have been published online today in the journal PLoS ONE.
The research team, led by Professor Gus Dekker from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute and the Lyell McEwin Hospital, found that the greatest risks for spontaneous preterm birth included:
The team also found that the greatest risk factors involved in the preterm rupture of membranes leading to birth included:
"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 says.