A STUDY conducted among pregnant women attending an antenatal clinic at the Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town has found that 10% of the mothers were abusing the drug methamphetamine or "tik" as it is known in Western Cape.
Chantal Stewart of the University of Cape Town told a meeting at the 14th (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics) World Congress of Gynaecology and Obstetrics that though more research was needed, there was evidence that the drug impaired the growth of the fetus and that the babies showed signs of irritability that could persist for years.
"The long-term effects of this drug on the baby are still unknown," said Stewart, calling for further studies.
Tik is the most commonly abused recreational drug in Cape Town, followed by cannabis (dagga), cocaine and heroin.
Evidence from KwaZulu-Natal shows that heroin is increasingly becoming the drug of choice for people younger than 20.
Stewart said it was challenging to conduct research among pregnant women due to the stigma and judgmental attitudes they often experience when accessing ante-natal care.
In South Africa cocaine had up to now been linked to more affluent users, but Stewart said this was changing. Research found that there was a seven times higher rate of syphilis among cocaine users, a five times higher rate of hepatitis and a 20 times higher rates of HIV infection.
"Pregnant women abusing cocaine are also less likely to attend antenatal care and there is evidence that there is a danger of, among other things, the placenta rupturing and signs that mimic pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure)," Stewart said.
No cocaine withdrawal has been recorded among the babies of mothers on cocaine. In the case of heroin researchers have recorded an increase in various infections, including hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases.
Newborns were also often underweight and suffered from infections as well as heroin withdrawal. - Health-e News