Neurobehavioural development of preschool-age children born to addicted mothers given opiate maintenance treatment with buprenorphine during pregnancy

Acta Paediatr. 2013 May;102(5):544-9. doi: 10.1111/apa.12210. Epub 2013 Mar 20.


Aim: To study the neurobehavioural development and somatic growth of children at preschool-age born to opioid-addicted mothers given opiate maintenance treatment (OMT) with buprenorphine during pregnancy.

Methods: Twenty-eight children, whose 21 opiate-addicted mothers were treated with OMT during pregnancy and accepted participation to the study, went through a battery of neurobehavioural tests (WPPSI-R, McCarthy, BROWN and SDQ). Twenty-five children fulfilled the tests at an age of 5-6 years.

Results: The children showed evidence of serious visual motor and attention problems in the field of performance (WPPSI-R scales) and major problems in the field of motor skills and memory abilities (McCarthy Scales). The results of behavioural tests also showed significantly elevated levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity and attention problems on the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) scale in BROWN and in SDQ tests estimated by the teachers, while the parents estimated no problems for their children. Regarding the outcomes, there were no significant differences in terms of neonatal abstinence syndrome, gender or socio-economic factors. The somatic growth of the children corresponded to the mean values of the normal population in weight, length and head circumference at birth and at preschool-age, respectively.

Conclusion: Children to opiate-addicted mothers with buprenorphine maintenance treatment during pregnancy constitute a risk population, which should be recognized before start of the school. Whether the effects are associated with buprenorphine exposition during foetal life or not are discussed and need further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Buprenorphine / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills
  • Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Buprenorphine