Babies Born to Women Using Ecstasy Have More Developmental Delays

Multiple studies over the years have revealed the harm that drugs can inflict on unborn children. Recently, researchers have studied the babies of mothers who had taken the drug, Ecstasy (also known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA), before and during their pregnancy. Results of the first study ever conducted on this topic were published in the February 28 issue of Neurotoxicology and Tertology.

The University of East London Drugs and Infancy Study found that the babies of women who had used Ecstasy did not have as highly developed motor skills as the infants of moms who didn’t use Ecstasy. Ninety-six British women were polled in the study. Their babies’ motor skills, growth, and brain development were evaluated at birth and again at 4 months of age.

Effects of Ecstasy on 4-Month-Old Babies

Babies born to women who had taken Ecstasy during their pregnancy had apparent delayed developmental skills compared to babies born to women who did not use the drug. Babies affected by Ecstasy exposure were slower to develop in the following motor skills:

Effects of Ecstasy on the Body

Lynn Singer, author of this study and professor of Environmental Health, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, fears for the children whose mother’s don’t realize they are pregnant while they are in the midst of frequently using Ecstasy. Even if a mother were to stop using the drug once she realized she was pregnant, the fetus would have already been exposed to the drug for at least a few weeks. In the first few months, the fetus develops at a rapid pace and any exposure to drugs could become a harmful part of the child’s development.

Studies show that Ecstasy can lower Serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety, moods, and sleep patterns and is an important component in the brain development of the fetus. Researchers explain that a fetus’ exposure to Ecstasy could lead to long-term problems in the child. Interestingly, most of the babies born to women who used Ecstasy were males. Researchers speculate that the drug may even interfere with the chemicals that determine the gender of a baby.

Continued Research on Infants Exposed to Ecstasy

The study revealed that if women use Ecstasy during their pregnancy, their child will most likely have developmental delays; however, further studies need to be conducted to find out exactly why this is so. The study, funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, will go on. Lynn Singer and her team will keep evaluating the babies for the first 18 months of their life in the hopes to use their information to educate expectant mothers and protect future children from the harm of drug use.