Drug Exposure and Intrauterine Growth

  • Sabrina D. Diaz
  • Lynne M. Smith


The effects of prenatal drug exposure on intrauterine growth restriction are widely acknowledged. Prevalence rates of drug-abusing women who are of reproductive age are of concern worldwide. This chapter summarizes what is known regarding the impact of prenatal exposure to various illicit and legal drugs on intrauterine growth. Brief descriptions of the drugs and the mechanisms which impact growth are also discussed. Decreased birth weight, height and head circumference, as well as increased incidence of prematurity and small for gestational age are common findings in infants who were prenatally exposed to cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates, methadone, buprenorphine, marijuana, alcohol, and nicotine. However, the studies reviewed vary in sample size and characteristics, measures used to confirm drug use, study design, and whether or not they control for potential confounders. A major design flaw in many studies is the lack of control for polydrug use. Though some studies have found no effects of prenatal drug exposure, these results should not diminish the importance of educating females regarding the potentially harmful effects of drug use during pregnancy and for continued efforts to identify optimal treatment therapies for drug-dependent pregnant and parenting women.


Head Circumference Growth Effect Intrauterine Growth Restriction Prenatal Alcohol Exposure Fetal Hypoxia 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Lysergic acid diethylamide






Socioeconomic status





Due to space constraints it was not possible to cite all reports regarding prenatal drug exposure. We sincerely thank all contributors to this discipline who have not been mentioned in this chapter. The authors thank Vincent Lucky Gamache, Jr. for his valuable contribution to Fig. 15.1.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Los Angeles Biomedical Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical CenterTorranceUSA
  2. 2.David Geffen School of Medicine, Harbor-UCLA Medical CenterTorranceUSA

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