Ecstasy During Pregnancy a Bad Idea

MDMA or ecstasy during pregnancy leads to slower development in one year olds

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A study on how ecstasy during pregnancy might affect babies at 4 months old was published early this year. Now those babies are a year old. They're still developing slowly.

The study found that babies exposed to ecstasy when their mothers were pregnant had lower mental development and motor development at one year old.

"Don't use any illegal drugs while pregnant."

This study was conducted by the same team and also led by Lynn T. Singer, PhD, a professor of environmental health sciences, pediatrics and psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.

The 96 women participating in the study are part of the University of East London Drugs and Infancy Study, which is learning about the effects of taking illegal drugs when a woman is pregnant.

Most of the women are middle class and in stable relationships with a partner, and most have some college.

All of them use multiple illegal drugs for recreation, including 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). MDMA is more commonly known as ecstasy.

Their 1-year-old children, who have been followed since birth, received assessments to test their thinking skills, their language and their motor development.

The mothers filled out questionnaires regarding their use of drugs, the amount of stress they and their child felt or showed and a general survey about mental or physical health symptoms they may have experienced.

The mothers also filled out a questionnaire that helped researchers learned about the children's home environment and the learning opportunities available in it.

When the babies were 4 months old, they had poorer coordination and were slower to reach milestones like holding their heads up.

Now, at 1 year old, the children continued to have poorer thinking skills and slower motor development skills. The more ecstasy their mothers had while pregnant, the slower the children were.

The children who were exposed to the least amount of ecstasy had similar scores to children who were not exposed, but there was only a small number of them. It may not be enough to see any problems.

The researchers did not see any differences on the children's language or emotions or on the parents' stress levels between the exposed and unexposed babies.

The poorer cognitive skills in the 1-year-olds might mean more problems down the line in school, the authors suggested.

"Findings of poorer cognitive and motor development at 1 year of age with heavier exposure to MDMA in the first 2 trimesters suggest significant risk for later learning problems," the authors wrote.

However, they said it is important to continue doing follow-up studies to find out if the poor outcomes continue for babies exposed to MDMA.

The study was published August 20 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the national Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 22, 2012
Last Updated:
August 23, 2012