Amphetamines, the pregnant woman and her children: a review

J Perinatol. 2012 Oct;32(10):737-47. doi: 10.1038/jp.2012.59. Epub 2012 May 31.


The objective of this study is to review and summarize available evidence regarding the impact of amphetamines on pregnancy, the newborn infant and the child. Amphetamines are neurostimulants and neurotoxins that are some of the most widely abused illicit drugs in the world. Users are at high risk of psychiatric co-morbidities, and evidence suggests that perinatal amphetamine exposure is associated with poor pregnancy outcomes, but data is confounded by other adverse factors associated with drug-dependency. Data sources are Government data, published articles, conference abstracts and book chapters. The global incidence of perinatal amphetamine exposure is most likely severely underestimated but acknowledged to be increasing rapidly, whereas exposure to other drugs, for example, heroin, is decreasing. Mothers known to be using amphetamines are at high risk of psychiatric co-morbidity and poorer obstetric outcomes, but their infants may escape detection, because the signs of withdrawal are usually less pronounced than opiate-exposed infants. There is little evidence of amphetamine-induced neurotoxicity and long-term neurodevelopmental impact, as data is scarce and difficult to extricate from the influence of other factors associated with children living in households where one or more parent uses drugs in terms of poverty and neglect. Perinatal amphetamine-exposure is an increasing worldwide concern, but robust research, especially for childhood outcomes, remains scarce. We suggest that exposed children may be at risk of ongoing developmental and behavioral impediment, and recommend that efforts be made to improve early detection of perinatal exposure and to increase provision of early-intervention services for affected children and their families.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Amphetamines / administration & dosage
  • Amphetamines / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Amphetamines