Substance misuse in early pregnancy and relationship to fetal outcome
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To establish the frequency of substance misuse in early pregnancy in an urban UK population, 807 consecutive positive pregnancy test urine samples were screened for a range of drugs, including cotinine as an indicator of maternal smoking habits. A positive test for cannabinoids was found in 117 (14.5%) samples. Smaller numbers of samples were positive for other drugs:- opiates (11), benzodiazepines (4), cocaine (3) and one each for amphetamines and methadone. Polydrug use was detected in nine individuals. Only two samples tested positive for ethanol. The proportion with a urine cotinine level indicative of active smoking was 34.3%. The outcome of the pregnancy was traced for 288 subjects. Cannabis use was associated with a lower gestational age at delivery (P < 0.005), an increased risk of prematurity (P < 0.02) and reduction in birth weight (P < 0.002). Whilst maternal smoking was associated with a reduction in infant birth weight (P < 0.05), this was less pronounced than the effect of other substance misuse.
Conclusion This study suggests that one in six women in South London are using drugs in early pregnancy and that cannabinoid use is associated with a poorer pregnancy outcome.
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