Groundbreaking Data Probes Further Into Pregnancy and Meth Use
March 20th, 2013
The meth use by pregnant women is getting worst. Meth effects are taking a dangerous toll on babies. Recent studies by Brown and University of Tulsa (Oklahoma) show that meth use by pregnant women in conjunction with an unstable environment may lead to an abnormal response to stress in children.
Because methamphetamine stimulates the nervous system, prenatal exposure to this drug may affect the development of a child’s stress-response system. Meth use while pregnant exposes the baby not only to the toxins of the drug, but also to the side effects of meth:
Increased blood pressure
Increased sweating and heart rate
Insomnia and paranoia
Mental and physical exhaustion
Deep depression and suicidal tendencies
Decreased cognitive abilities such as memory, judgment, reasoning, and verbal learning
Children exposed to meth in the womb are at risk for poor nutrition, increased risk of contracting an STD, and an increase risk of miscarriage. They are also more likely to suffer from premature birth, low birth weight, cleft palates, and mental and physical disabilities.
Meth, however, is not the only culprit to a child’s wellbeing.
“If the child is repeatedly exposed to serious stress at an early age — such as violence in the home — the system wears down,” says Barry Lester, director of the Brown Center for Children at Risk at the Women and Infants Hospital and Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I.
Of the 330 children aged 3-5 tested, over half had mothers currently abusing meth. These women were also more likely to use other drugs during and after pregnancy and to be single mothers. Researchers found that at age 3, scores for anxiety, depression and moodiness were slightly higher for children exposed to meth in the womb and that these differences persisted through age 5. Older children who’d been exposed to meth also had more aggression and attention problems similar to ADHD.
While the best and most obvious way of avoiding the dangers of meth is to stop using immediately, the postnatal environment is hugely important. “If you put that child in a good environment,” explains Lester, “He or she has every chance of developing normally. It is important that these children not be labeled.”