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Short-term outcomes of mothers and infants exposed to antenatal amphetamines
  1. J Oei1,2,
  2. M E Abdel-Latif3,4,
  3. R Clark1,2,
  4. F Craig2,
  5. K Lui1,2
  1. 1
    School of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2
    The Department of Newborn Care, Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3
    Department of Neonatology, The Canberra Hospital, Garran, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  4. 4
    School of Clinical Medicine, Division of Women and Children’s Health, Australian National University, Garran, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr J Oei, Department of Newborn Care, Royal Hospital for Women, Barker Street, Randwick, Sydney, NSW 2031, Australia; ju.oei{at}


Aim: To determine the short-term outcomes of newborn infants and mothers exposed to antenatal amphetamines in the state of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory during 2004.

Methods: Amphetamine exposure was determined retrospectively using ICD-10 AM morbidity code searches of hospital medical records and from records of local drug and alcohol services. Records were reviewed on site. All public hospitals (n  =  101) with obstetric services were included.

Results: Amphetamines were used by 200 (22.9%) of the 871 identified drug-using mothers. Most women (182, 91%) injected amphetamines intravenously. Compared with the other 669 drug users, amphetamine-using mothers were significantly more likely to use multiple classes of drugs (45.0% vs 7.8%), be subject to domestic violence (32.1% vs 17.5%), be homeless (14.8% vs 4.9%) and be involved with correctional services (19.8% vs 9.7%). The incidence of comorbid psychiatric illnesses were significantly higher (57.4% vs 41.7%) and their infants were more likely to be preterm (29.5% vs 20.4%), notified as children at risk (67.0% vs 32.8%), fostered before hospital discharge (14.5% vs 5.5%) and less likely to be breastfed (27.0% vs 41.6%).

Conclusions: Amphetamine-exposed mothers and infants in public hospitals of NSW and the ACT are at significantly higher risk of adverse social and perinatal outcomes even when compared with mothers and infants exposed to other drugs of dependency. Increased vigilance for amphetamine exposure is recommended due to a high prevalence of use, especially in Australia, as a recreational drug.

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  • Funding The research project was funded by a grant from the Leslie Stevens Fund for Newborn Care, Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation and partly supported by the Cornucopia Committee of New South Wales.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Ethics approval Approval for the study was obtained from individual governing human research ethics committees of all area health services of NSW and the ACT.