Acute neonatal effects of cocaine exposure during pregnancy

Charles R. Bauer, John C. Langer, Seetha Shankaran, Henrietta S. Bada, Barry Lester, Linda L. Wright, Heidi Krause-Steinrauf, Vincent L. Smeriglio, Loretta P. Finnegan, Penelope L. Maza, Joel Verter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Objective: To identify associations between cocaine exposure during pregnancy and medical conditions in newborn infants from birth through hospital discharge. Design: Multisite, prospective, randomized study. Setting: Brown University, University of Miami, University of Tennessee (Memphis), and Wayne State University. Subjects: A total of 717 cocaine-exposed infants and 7442 nonexposed infants. Main Outcome Measures: Results of physical examination and conditions observed during hospitalization. Results: Cocaine-exposed infants were about 1.2 weeks younger, weighed 536 g less, measured 2.6 cm shorter, and had head circumference 1.5 cm smaller than nonexposed infants (all P<.001). Results did not confirm previously reported abnormalities. Central and autonomic nervous system symptoms were more frequent in the exposed group: jittery/tremors (adjusted odds ratio, 2.17; 99% confidence interval, 1.44-3.29), high-pitched cry (2.44; 1.06-5.66), irritability (1.81; 1.18-2.80), excessive suck (3.58; 1.63-7.88), hyperalertness (7.78; 1.72-35.06), and autonomic instability (2.64; 1.17-5.95). No differences were detected in organ systems by ultrasound examination. Exposed infants had more infections (3.09; 1.76-5.45), including hepatitis (13.46; 7.46-24.29), syphilis (8.84; 3.74-20.88), and human immunodeficiency virus exposure (12.37; 2.20-69.51); were less often breastfed (0.26; 0.15-0.44); had more child protective services referrals (48.92; 28.77-83.20); and were more often not living with their biological mother (18.70; 10.53-33.20). Conclusions: Central and autonomic nervous system symptoms were more frequent in the exposed cohort and persisted in an adjusted analysis. They were usually transient and may be a true cocaine effect. Abnormal anatomic outcomes previously reported were not confirmed. Increased infections, particularly sexually transmitted diseases, pose a serious public health challenge. Exposure increased involvement of child protective services and out-of-home placement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-834
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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