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Methamphetamine Use Restricts Fetal Growth

Study finds babies more than three times likely to be underweight

TUESDAY, Sept. 5, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women who use methamphetamine are 3.5 times more likely than other mothers to have underweight babies, new research finds.

The Brown Medical School-led study of 1,618 women from four medical centers in different parts of the United States is the first large-scale investigation of the prenatal effects of methamphetamine use. It found that 84 of the 1,534 babies born to the women were exposed to methamphetamine during pregnancy.

Newborns exposed to the drug during pregnancy aren't at risk of being born prematurely, but they are much more likely to be smaller than normal. This is because methamphetamine appears to restrict the flow of nutrient-rich blood into the placenta, which increases the likelihood that a newborn will be "small for gestational age," the researchers said.

Growth-restricted babies born to women who used methamphetamine during pregnancy weighed less than five pounds. The long-term effects of this growth restriction include greater risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a group of heart attack risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure.

Children who are born underweight also tend to have learning difficulties and behavior problems, such as short attention span and hyperactivity, the researchers said.

They plan to track the infants in this study to assess the long-term effects of methamphetamine use during pregnancy.

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

The findings were published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

More information

The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy has more about methamphetamine.

SOURCE: Brown Medical School, news release, Sept. 5, 2006
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