Using Ecstasy During Pregnancy Linked To Developmental Delays In Babies
If a woman takes ecstasy during pregnancy, she raises the risk of developmental delays in her infant, according to a new study from Case Western Reserve University School Of Medicine in cooperation with the University of London and Swansea University in the United Kingdom. Taking ecstasy during pregnancy also increases the likelihood that the baby will be a boy.
Ecstasy is a drug used recreationally and most often in social settings to achieve relaxation, elevated mood, and sometimes an altered state of consciousness.
Researchers studied 96 women recruited from the University of East London Drugs and Infancy Study. They were interviewed before and during their pregnancies about their recreational drug abuse, and their babies were assessed when they were born and when they were four months old.
Babies whose mothers had used ecstasy during pregnancy had worse motor control and inferior hand-eye coordination at four months old. They were less able to hold their heads up, sit without being supported, or roll onto their sides from their backs.
“The research findings also suggests there are some neurochemical effects of the drug that seem to affect the motor functioning of infants,” says Dr. Derek Moore, a professor of psychology at The University of East London, director of the school’s Institute for Research in Child Development (IRCD), and coordinator of this research project in London.
Another principal investigator, Dr. Andy Parrott, a professor of psychology at Swansea University, called the psycho motor problems in the babies “very worrying, but not particularly surprising.”
“Ecstasy can deplete the level of serotonin, which is an important neurotransmitter for many brain functions including gross motor control,” Dr. Parrott said.
Serotonin is a chemical that carries nerve impulses between cells, and helps the brain form during pregnancy. By changing the levels of serotonin during pregnancy when the child’s brain is developing, his learning and memory could be affected.
Although the majority of mothers in the study had taken other drugs besides ecstasy during their pregnancies, the scientists controlled for that factor, as well as socioeconomic factors.
The research team plans to continue to study these babies until they are 18 months old, using funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. This study was published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology.