Meth And Pregnancy: Prenatal Exposure To Methamphetamine

When a woman uses meth during pregnancy, it is dangerous both for her and the unborn baby. Not only can it cause complications during pregnancy and labor, it can also affect the child’s early development as well.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Methamphetamine, more commonly referred to as crystal meth, is a powerful stimulant that is sometimes prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It is known for increasing energy, alertness, and focus.

Meth is not considered safe for recreational use during pregnancy. The risk of hurting the child and the mother due to a meth addiction is very high.

If a woman does use meth during pregnancy, there are a variety of potentially adverse outcomes that could affect her child and their development.

What Happens When A Baby Is Exposed To Meth In The Womb?

Aside from being an illicit drug and dangerous type of amphetamine, there is no amount of meth that is considered safe for a woman to use while pregnant.

If she is taking it by prescription, she should let her health care provider or obstetrics doctor know immediately.

Low Birth Weight

Low birth weight is considered to be any weight below five pounds and eight ounces.

While some babies are simply born on the smaller side, other babies that are born underweight are behind in other developmental areas as well.

Babies born to mothers who used meth while the baby was in utero also tend to have a smaller head circumference.

Birth Defects

Birth defects come in many forms and can either be outwardly visible or internal. Birth defects can also come in the form of a chemical imbalance.

These defects can either be strictly cosmetic in nature or they can affect the function of a vital organ.

A common birth defect in babies born to mothers who used meth during pregnancy is a cleft palate.


Malformations are abnormalities that are present from birth and can be a result of poor maternal health and maternal drug use during pregnancy.

Some malformations, like those in the heart, can be very serious and even fatal for the baby shortly after birth.

The effects of methamphetamine use during pregnancy put babies at a higher risk for malformations as they grow and develop in the womb.

Brain Development

Meth use during pregnancy can strongly affect the brain of the developing baby in many negative ways.

As the child gets older, these issues can manifest in the form of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other cognitive, neurodevelopmental, and behavioral problems.

Pregnancy Complications From Methamphetamine Use

Meth exposure during pregnancy can result in severe pregnancy complications that are dangerous to both the mother and the baby.

Placental Abruption

Placental abruption occurs when the placenta prematurely separates from the uterus, and it is a life-threatening emergency for both the pregnant woman and baby.

It is very rare and only occurs with extreme physical trauma (a bad fall or car accident) or drug use during pregnancy.

A placental abruption typically occurs in the third trimester and will also cause preterm labor to occur, which can be dangerous for the baby in other ways depending on how early the labor is.


Preeclampsia is high blood pressure during pregnancy and can restrict the flow of blood and oxygen to the placenta. This condition can be dangerous for both the mother and unborn baby.

The use of certain drugs, like meth, can put a woman at an increased risk for developing preeclampsia. If left untreated, preeclampsia can result in low birth weight, preterm birth, and slowed fetal growth.

Preterm Birth

Preterm birth is considered to be any birth before 37 weeks of gestational age.

The earlier birth occurs, the more potential complications that can arise. Babies born too early will have less chance of survival as well.

Many babies born prematurely will have no problems and will lead completely normal lives. Others may find themselves having to catch up in certain areas of development.

Methamphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms In Pregnant Women

Meth is not only a powerful stimulant, but it is also an incredibly addictive substance. Professional help is recommended for any pregnant woman trying to quit use of meth.

Methamphetamine abuse withdrawal symptoms in pregnant women include:

  • mood swings
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • psychosis
  • dry mouth
  • increased appetite

Can Babies Experience Neonatal Withdrawal Symptoms From Meth Use?

Current research on the subject shows that babies do not experience neonatal withdrawal symptoms from meth use during pregnancy.

However, this condition is often present when other illicit drugs are used during pregnancy, such as opiates.

While babies do not show signs of withdrawal in the short-term or long-term effects of meth use by their mothers, there is still potential harm being done to their central nervous system.

Treatment Programs For Meth Addiction During Pregnancy

Seeking treatment for meth addiction, alcohol abuse, or an opioid disorder is extremely important and only more so when the person is pregnant.

Meth abuse puts both the pregnant woman and baby in danger and professional help is ideal to prevent relapse.

Any addiction treatment program for meth will start with medical detox, as it is vitally important to get the pregnant woman through withdrawal comfortably and safely.

It is also very important that she does not relapse or continue to use meth once sobriety has been reached.

After the detox period is complete, the pregnant woman can enter outpatient or inpatient treatment, whichever is more convenient and affordable.

Oftentimes, there are special treatment centers that are specifically for pregnant women going through recovery which can offer both recovery services and prenatal care.

Find Substance Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Going through pregnancy and treatment for any substance use disorder can be intimidating, but our treatment specialists at Bedrock Recovery Center can help guide you through the process.

If you or a loved one are struggling with meth addiction, please let us help you get yourself back on track.

We use a trauma-informed approach to recovery and believe that everyone deserves a chance to live the life they want to live. Call our helpline today to get started.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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