New Study on Ecstasy and Pregnancy

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When we first reported (in 2008) on the effects of ecstasy on unborn children, the data was unclear. A new study from the University of East London shows it is harmful.

The study used a simple, but clear method. New mothers were interviewed about drug use during pregnancy and their newborns were then assessed at birth and at four months to see if there were any developmental problems.

Growth, motor control and brain development were all adversely affected in babies born to women taking ecstasy during pregnancy. Other problems seen in these infants at four months were difficulty sitting up, balance their heads, and roll to the side.

Interestingly, the study showed that women who abused the drug also had a higher percentage of male babies. This was something researchers didn’t expect and which might indicate some interference in sex selection during conception.

It should be noted that this study only shows a correlation between ecstasy use and newborn development. It doesn’t demonstrate a cause and effect relationship. Mothers may have used other drugs (or alcohol) or may have made lifestyle choices (poor nutrition) along with taking ecstasy that would explain the results.

Still, even though the study is only an initial look at the drug during pregnancy, it clearly shows that more investigation is needed. Ecstasy isn’t known to be highly addictive and women who may become pregnant could easily choose to avoid it. If cause and effect can be shown, it is likely women will consider this and make the right choices.

The study also provides ammunition against the “ecstasy is harmless” side of the drug use issue. The drug is already known to cross the placental barrier and reach fetuses in the womb. Adding even a strong suspicion that it causes harm should be enough to caution against its use.

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