Pregnant women who take the club drug ecstasy can wreak significant damage on their unborn children, according to a new study linking the illegal substance to a host of fetal and infant health problems.
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the University of East London found the use of ecstasy can affect the processes that determine a baby's gender and contribute to developmental delays among infants.
Lynn T. Singer, the study’s lead investigator, said the research raises special concerns for women who may take the drug before they know they are pregnant.
"The potential harmful effects of ecstasy exposure on prenatal and infant development have long been a concern," she said. "The drug's negative effects are particularly risky for pregnant women, who may use the drug without being aware of their condition."
The study, published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, involved 96 participants were recruited from the University of East London Drugs and Infancy Study, which focused on recreational drug use among pregnant women. Prior to and during pregnancy, the women were interviewed about their use of ecstasy. Researchers then compared infants exposed to ecstasy to non-exposed infants.
At four months, investigators found ecstasy-exposed infants experienced more developmental delays and problems with coordination. They found more male births among women who used ecstasy while pregnant.
Ecstasy is a stimulant and hallucinogen -- sometimes called MDMA -- that is known to cause a range of damaging effects.