Women who are in pregnancy are strongly urged to avoid all kinds of use of alcohol and drugs. Doctors warn that the use of such substances can result in consequences that can affect the child well into childhood and, in some cases, even into adulthood. Cognitive processes and emotion regulation are often cited as major consequences of substance use during pregnancy.
A new study finds that the effects of methamphetamine use during pregnancy can be witnessed when the child is as young as two years of age. Researchers at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma have identified a link between a low level of cortisol in the toddler and the use of methamphetamine by the mother while pregnant. In extreme cases, methamphetamine rehab can also be recommended by medical experts.
The findings of the study reveal that the toddlers introduced to a stressful situation did not experience a risk in the stress hormone cortisol when their mothers used methamphetamine during pregnancy. However, the results of the study also offer encouragement that meth the use of methamphetamine during pregnancy is not the only important influence on cortisol levels. The researchers found that even if methamphetamine is used during pregnancy, those toddlers who experience a stable home life may exhibit normal cortisol responses to stress.
The inhibited cortisol response was most clearly observed in those toddlers who not only were exposed in the womb to methamphetamine but also had indicators of unstable home life. Examples in this regard included a mother who drank heavily or experienced serious mental health challenges, such as depression or anxiety.
Many pieces of previous research have shown that there is a connection between a lack of cortisol response and an increased risk of behavioral and health problems in youth. The problems range from abusing substances to asthma. Thus, the findings of the current study indicate that exposure in the womb to methamphetamine could result in serious problems, and it may include an increased possibility for the development of depression and anxiety, according to a lead researcher named Namik Kirlic of the University of Tulsa.
A senior researcher notes that methamphetamine usage is not the only major influence on children’s cortisol levels. Instead, it is a mixture of meth use and the adversity experienced after birth. The researchers examined one hundred and twenty-three two-year-old kids who had been exposed to the usage of methamphetamine by their mothers during pregnancy. The children played with their mothers as they were observed by researchers. Later, each child was left alone by the mother for up to two minutes. The child’s stress level was measured through a saliva sample before and after the stressful situation was introduced. The researchers found that 68% of the children had a blunted cortisol response. The response was due to not only the methamphetamine exposure but it was also connected to the environment at home.