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Environ Int. 2013 Apr;54:141-63. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2013.01.011. Epub 2013 Feb 27.

Prenatal exposure to substance of abuse: a worldwide problem.

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Department of Analytical Chemistry, Chemical Faculty, Gdansk University of Technology (GUT) 11/12 Narutowicza Street, 80-233 Gdańsk, Poland.


Substance abuse during pregnancy is an important public health issue affecting the mother and the growing infant. Preterm labor, miscarriage, abruption and postpartum hemorrhage are obstetric complications which have been associated with women who are dependent on abused substances. Moreover, women are also at an increased risk of medical problems such as poor nutrition, anemia, urinary tract infections as well as sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis, HIV and problems related to infection. Intrauterine growth restriction, prematurity, stillbirth, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome represent only some of fetal effects. Later on, during childhood, it has been shown that in utero exposure to substances of abuse is associated with increased rates of respiratory infections, asthma, ear and sinus infections. Moreover, these children are more irritable, have difficulty focusing their attention, and have more behavioral problems. Therefore, the assessment of in utero exposure to abused substance is extremely necessary and is relevant for the care of the mother and the offspring. In this sense, several approaches are possible; however, recently the evaluation of in utero exposure to abused drugs has been achieved by testing biological specimens coming from fetus or newborn, pregnant or nursing mother, or from both the fetus and the mother. Maternal and neonatal biological materials reflect exposure in a specific time period and each of them has different advantages and disadvantages in terms of accuracy, time window of exposure and cost/benefit ratio. The methodology for identification and determination of abused substances in biological materials are of great importance. Consequently, sensitive and specific bioanalytical methods are necessary to accurately measure biomarkers. Different immunoassays methods are used as screening methods for drug testing in the above reported specimens, however, the results from immunoassays should be carefully interpreted and confirmed by a more specific and sensitive chromatographic methods such as GC-MS or LC-MS. The interest in the development and optimization of analytical techniques to detect abused substances in different specimens is explained by the several possibilities and information that they can provide.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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