By Staff Writer
Women who fail to seek help from rehab programs for an addiction to methamphetamine while they are pregnant may be putting their unborn child at significant risk for developmental problems. Now, a new test created by a team of researchers may help doctors identify babies who are the most likely to experience these issues.
The procedure involves testing newborns’ muscle tone, reflexes, behavioral state, motor development and stress during their first four days of life and again at one month. After evaluating the method in nearly 400 infants, half of whom experienced prenatal meth exposure, the researchers found that the test accurately predicts which children will experience developmental problems.
The researchers said that stress is one of the strongest predictors of future development issues. The testing showed that babies who were exposed to meth were significantly more difficult to calm down after being aroused, indicating high levels of stress.
However, many of these infants showed signs of improving during the study period. The results indicated that identifying children who are at the greatest risk of meth-related developmental delays early can help their parents seek resources that may prevent their issues from worsening, the researchers said.