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Meth Use Restricts Fetal Growth

Overview of Results
Study Highlights
Affect of Low Birth Weight

Results provided by researchers at the Brown University Medical Center and Women & Infants Hospital show that newborns exposed before birth to Meth are more than three times as likely to be born underweight. The “Infant Development, Environment and Lifestyle Study" (IDEAL) is the first large-scale study of prenatal Meth use on newborns. It is also the first prospective study: these infants will be followed over time. Researchers will track the children’s development and health for at least three years, longer if they obtain funding. The results were published in September’s Pediatric.

Results show that newborns exposed to the drug were not born too soon.  Instead, they were born too small – below the 10th percentile for weight.  Growth-restricted newborns in the study weighed less than 5 pounds.  Methamphetamine appears to restrict the nutrient-rich flow of blood into the placenta, increasing the risk that the newborn will be “small for gestational age”.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Center for Research Resources funded the work.

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Study Points:

  • 1618 mothers were enrolled in four cities (Los Angeles, Des Moines, Tulsa, Honolulu)

  • 84 mothers used Meth during the pregnancy

  • Researchers adjusted for other factors that may contribute to growth restriction, such as socioeconomic status and other substance use, including tobacco and alcohol.

  • Mothers who quit use during pregnancy increased the likelihood that their babies would be born closer to normal weight.

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Impact of prenatal and early growth restriction
Children born underweight are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a collection of heart attack risk factors such as high blood pressure and obesity.  They also face a higher risk of behavior problems, such as hyperactivity, short attention span, and/or learning difficulties.

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For more on this study:
Release from Brown University
Join Together summary article
Med Page Today

Smith, Lynne M., LaGasse, Linda L., Derauf, Chris, Grant, Penny, Shah, Rizwan, Arria, Amelia, Huestis, Marilyn, Haning, William, Strauss, Arthur, Grotta, Sheri Della, Liu, Jing, Lester, Barry M.
The Infant Development, Environment, and Lifestyle Study: Effects of Prenatal Methamphetamine Exposure, Polydrug Exposure, and Poverty on Intrauterine GrowthPediatrics 2006 118: 1149-1156 (doi:10.1542/peds.2005-2564)

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Related Information:
Dr. Kathryn Wells' Papers
Drug Endangered Children

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