Perinatal effects of amphetamine and heroin use during pregnancy on the mother and infant

J Med Assoc Thai. 2005 Nov;88(11):1506-13.


Objectives: To determine the perinatal impacts of heroin and amphetamine on both mothers and infants.

Material and method: This is a retrospective study on the influence of amphetamine and heroin on pregnant women and their newborn infants at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, between January 1997 and December 2002. The medical and demographic data of both mothers and infants were evaluated. Comparison of the consistent drug effects of these 2 drugs on the mothers and infants were also performed

Results: Two hundred and eleven women were identified There were 178 (84.4%) and 33 (15.6%) women addicted to amphetamine and heroin respectively. Sixty one (28.9%) of them were polydrug users. There were more polydrug users among heroin addicts than amphetamine addicts, (43.7% vs 27.2%, p < 0.05). Poor obstetric history were noted in both groups of women including lack of prenatal care (74.9%), a high incidence of previous abortion (22.3%), positive HIV serology test (11.1%), pre-eclampsia (5.2%), infection (3.3%) and antepartum hemorrhage (1.9%). Drug intoxication was found in 11 amphetamine addicted mothers, whereas 2 heroin addicts developed withdrawal symptoms during intrapartum and postpartum periods. All infants were singleton. There was one stillbirth and 2 neonatal deaths. There was no statistical difference in terms of sex ratio, mean birth weight, gestational age, length, head circumference and Apgar score between the groups of amphetamine and heroin exposed infants. The incidence of prematurity, low birth weight, IUGR and microcephaly were not statistically different between both groups of infants. The overall incidence was 31.7%, 31.7%, 9.5% and 8.6% respectively. Congenital anomalies were found in 5 (2.8%) amphetamine exposed infants. Thirty one out of 33 heroin exposed infants (93.9%) and 4 out of 178 amphetamine exposed infants (2.2%) developed drug withdrawal symptoms with the mean onset of 21.5 +/- 16.5 hours and 10.3 +/- 7.5 hours respectively, p > 0.05. All heroin withdrawal infants were successfully treated with Phenobarbital with the mean duration of treatment of 23.7 +/- 11.5 days. None of the amphetamine withdrawal infants needed specific treatment. They recovered spontaneously within 6.0 +/- 5.3 days. Eighteen infants were left in an orphanage or under the custody of their relatives.

Conclusion: Amphetamine or heroin use during pregnancy can cause many serious adverse effects on both mothers and infants. The findings in the present study are consistent with previous reports, although they seemed to be more common and severe. Increasing awareness and improving understanding of drug abuse in the medical, legal and social aspects are needed in order to reduce these impacts.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology
  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology*
  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Female
  • Heroin Dependence / complications*
  • Humans
  • Infant Welfare
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Male
  • Maternal Welfare
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Perinatal Care*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / chemically induced*
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Thailand / epidemiology