Researchers, led by Dr. Anna David of the Institute of Women’s Health at University College London, find that recreational drug use during pregnancy – determined by testing mothers’ hair samples – may increase the risk of brain birth defects in offspring.
The researchers found that 35% of the women whose baby was born with a brain birth defect – including brain cysts and brain underdevelopment – had engaged in recreational drug use at conception or during pregnancy, compared with 13% of women who had a baby without a birth defect.
Maternal recreational drug use may be associated with the development of fetal malformations such as gastroschisis, brain and limb defects, the aetiology due to vascular disruption during organogenesis. Using forensic hair analysis we reported evidence of recreational drug use in 18% of women with a fetal gastroschisis. Here we investigate this association in a variety of fetal malformations using the same method.
In a multi-centre study, women with normal pregnancies (controls) and those with fetal abnormalities (cases) gave informed consent for hair analysis for recreational drug metabolites using mass spectrometry. Hair samples cut at the root were tested in sections corresponding to 3 month time periods (pre and periconceptual period).
Women whose fetus had gastroschisis, compared to women with a normal control fetus, were younger (mean age 23.78±SD4.79 years, 18–37 vs 29.79±SD6 years, 18–42, p = 0.00001), were more likely to have evidence of recreational drug use (15, 25.4% vs 21, 13%, OR2.27, 95thCI 1.08–4.78, p = 0.028), and were less likely to report periconceptual folic acid use (31, 53.4% vs 124, 77.5%, OR0.33, 95thCI 0.18–0.63, p = 0.001). Age-matched normal control women were no less likely to test positive for recreational drugs than women whose fetus had gastroschisis. After accounting for all significant factors, only young maternal age remained significantly associated with gastroschisis. Women with a fetus affected by a non-neural tube central nervous system (CNS) anomaly were more likely to test positive for recreational drugs when compared to women whose fetus was normal (7, 35% vs 21, 13%, OR3.59, 95th CI1.20–10.02, p = 0.01).
We demonstrate a significant association between non neural tube CNS anomalies and recreational drug use in the periconceptual period, first or second trimesters, but we cannot confirm this association with gastroschisis. We confirm the association of gastroschisis with young maternal age.
Sources and more information:
- Maternal recreational drug use linked to offspring brain birth defects, MNT, Nov 30, 2014.
- A Case-Control Study of Maternal Periconceptual and Pregnancy Recreational Drug Use and Fetal Malformation Using Hair Analysis, PLOSone, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111038, October 31, 2014.
- Related post: Is it True that People are Born Addicts?, stepstorecovery, Dec 2014.