By Natalie Rahhal Deputy Health Editor For Dailymail.com
Published: 23:19 BST, 14 October 2019 | Updated: 23:20 BST, 14 October 2019
Using cannabis during pregnancy could cause harmful brain changes to a developing baby - but only if it's a boy, a new study in rats suggests.
Male rats exposed to THC - the ingredient in marijuana that gets users high - while in the womb produced more dopamine as they grew up.
In humans the neuro-transmitter increases pleasure from activities such as gambling, sex and addiction.
The experiments found it altered the brains and behavior of the lab rodents. The same did not apply to female offspring, say the international team.
Corresponding author Dr Miriam Melis, of Cagliari University in Monserrato, said exposure to the drug in the womb may fuel risk-taking behaviors in teenage boys.
When developing rats were exposed to THC, weed's active ingredient, in the womb, their brains made excess dopamine, which could raise their risks for addiction - but it only held true for males, Cagliari University scientists found
Cannabis is the most widely used drug by women at reproductive age - and not just for recreational purposes. Up to one-in-seven take it during pregnancy.
As legal access grows it has been increasingly used to treat morning sickness and anxiety.
But doctors or other medical staff seldom advise about the risks faced by mothers-to-be.
The effect on neurons was similar to those previously identified in offspring exposed in the womb to cocaine or alcohol.
'As physicians caution pregnant women against alcohol and cocaine intake because of their detrimental effects to the fetus, based on our