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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2007 Jul-Aug;29(4):446-57. Epub 2007 Mar 12.

Pre-natal exposures to cocaine and alcohol and physical growth patterns to age 8 years.

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Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Two hundred and two primarily African American/Caribbean children (classified by maternal report and infant meconium as 38 heavier, 74 lighter and 89 not cocaine-exposed) were measured repeatedly from birth to age 8 years to assess whether there is an independent effect of pre-natal cocaine exposure on physical growth patterns. Children with fetal alcohol syndrome identifiable at birth were excluded. At birth, cocaine and alcohol exposures were significantly and independently associated with lower weight, length and head circumference in cross-sectional multiple regression analyses. The relationship over time of pre-natal exposures to weight, height, and head circumference was then examined by multiple linear regression using mixed linear models including covariates: child's gestational age, gender, ethnicity, age at assessment, current caregiver, birth mother's use of alcohol, marijuana and tobacco during the pregnancy and pre-pregnancy weight (for child's weight) and height (for child's height and head circumference). The cocaine effects did not persist beyond infancy in piecewise linear mixed models, but a significant and independent negative effect of pre-natal alcohol exposure persisted for weight, height, and head circumference. Catch-up growth in cocaine-exposed infants occurred primarily by 6 months of age for all growth parameters, with some small fluctuations in growth rates in the preschool age range but no detectable differences between heavier versus unexposed nor lighter versus unexposed thereafter.

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