Substance Use in Pregnancy

Lead Investigators

Dr. Daniel Corsi

Dr. Mark Walker

Dr. Darine El-Chaâr

Cannabis use has been increasing in Canada, including among pregnant Canadian women. Although we anticipate further increases because of greater availability of cannabis and low perceptions of harm, there is a lack of conclusive evidence on the short-term outcomes and long-term sequelae of exposed children.   

Using provincial data from BORN Ontario and ICES, we are conducting population-based cohort studies to examine pregnancy, neonatal and childhood health outcomes following exposure to cannabis and other substances. We are using these data to evaluate patterns in cannabis and other substance use in pregnant women/individuals in Ontario, and the association between substance use in pregnancy and pregnancy and newborn outcomes including preterm birth, birthweight and newborn admission to neonatal intensive care units and re-hospitalization. We are also exploring the longer-term health outcomes of children exposed to cannabis and other substances in pregnancy and through breastfeeding and evaluating the knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding cannabis use in pregnancy among Canadians.  

The findings from this research program will yield important results to assist in shaping comprehensive policy and public health messaging for Canadian women and their health care providers. 

Funding :

  • Cannabis use in pregnancy and associations with child developmental outcomes: an extension to the Ottawa and Kingston (OaK) Birth Cohort. Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Operating Grant: Supplementary Grants for Cannabis Research in Longitudinal Studies – Human Development, Child and Youth Health. Principal Applicant: Corsi DJ. ($289,249) (2021) 
  • Substance use in pregnancy and associations with perinatal, neonatal, and childhood outcomes. Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Operating Grant: Early Career Investigator Grants in Maternal, Reproductive, Child & Youth Health. *Matched funds from Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. Principal Applicant: Corsi DJ. (Total $204,726) (2021) 
  • Vaping in Canada: Investigating the geographic distribution and sociodemographic correlates of e-cigarette use. Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Project Grant:  Priority Announcement: Population and Public Health – Early Career Investigator. Principal Applicants: Corsi DJ, Lippert A. ($100,000 CAD) (2021) 
  • Pan-Canadian network to investigate cannabis use in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in children. Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Team Grant: Cannabis Research in Priority Areas – Neurodevelopment. Principal Applicants: Corsi DJ, Janus M. [CA3 – 170126] ($1,495,716 CAD) (2020-2024) 
  • There may be a time and a place, but is pregnancy one? Weeding out the myths from the facts to help make informed choices about cannabis use in pregnancy. Canadian Institutes for Health Research. IHDCYH Talks Video Competition [201910IHT-431699-193718] Principal Applicant: Corsi D. ($750 CAD) (2020) 
  • Influence of cannabis exposure in pregnancy on offspring perinatal and childhood health outcomes: a population-based birth cohort. Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Catalyst Grant: Population Health Intervention Research on the Legalization and Regulation of Non-Medical Cannabis in Canada. Principal Applicants: El-Chaar D, Corsi DJ. ($94,691) (2017) 
Select Publications:
  • Sharif A, Bombay K, Murphy MSQ, Murray RK, Sikora L, Cobey KD, Corsi DJ. Canadian educational resources on cannabis use and fertility, pregnancy, and lactation: A scoping review. In press at JMIR Parenting and Paediatrics. 2022.  
  • Corsi DJ. Epidemiological challenges to measuring prenatal cannabis use and its potential harms. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2020;127(1):17. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.15985.  
  • Corsi DJ. The potential associaiton between prenatal cannabis use and congenital anomalies. Journal of Addiction Medicine. 2020; 14(6):451-453. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000639 
  • Corsi DJ, Hsu H, Fell DB, Wen SW, Walker M. Association of maternal opioid use in pregnancy with adverse perinatal outcomes in Ontario, Canada from 2012 to 2018. JAMA Network Open. 2020; 3(7):e208256. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.8256 
  • Corsi DJ, Donelle J, Sucha E, Hawken S, Hsu H, El-Chaâr D, Bisnaire L, Fell D, Wen SW, Walker M. Maternal cannabis use in pregnancy and child neurodevelopmental outcomes. Nature Medicine. 2020; 26(10):1536-1540. doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-1002-5. 
  • Lowry DE, Corsi DJ. Trends and correlates of cannabis use in Canada: a repeated cross-sectional analysis of national surverys from 2004 to 2017. CMAJ Open. 2020; 8(3):E487-E495. doi: 10.9778/cmaj.20190229. 

Actively Recruiting Research Studies:

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Contemporary prospective cohorts that collect robust clinical and biological data are needed to support evaluation of the trends and determinants of medicinal, therapeutic and recreational cannabis use in the Canadian obstetric population, as well as the impact of gestational or postnatal cannabis exposures on maternal, infant, and pediatric outcomes. We are preparing to launch a pilot study to assess the feasibility of a large prospective cohort of individuals from whom extensive cannabis use and perinatal data can be obtained, and bio-specimens collected.