Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Babies born in a district general hospital to mothers taking heroin.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986; 293 doi: (Published 20 September 1986) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986;293:745
  1. H M Klenka


    The effect of maternal abuse of heroin on newborn babies was studied in 25 babies born during 1982-6 to 23 heroin users, most of whom smoked the drug. Nineteen of the babies developed withdrawal symptoms, which in 12 were severe enough to require treatment. Five babies were born prematurely; 17 were adequately grown for their gestational age. Four mothers successfully established breast feeding. Twenty two infants were discharged from the hospital into their mother's care with support from the family and community services; at the end of the study only six were living in families in which the parents were married or had a stable relationship. Withdrawal symptoms were short lasting and often self limiting, and no evidence of adverse effect on postnatal growth and development was found. Unstable social circumstances with changes in family dynamics made follow up difficult. Further assessment needs to be carried out to investigate the long term effect of maternal heroin abuse on children.