Health, mental health and behavioural

problems of children exposed prenatally to methamphetamine

longitudinal growth follow-up
Health, mental health and behavioural problems of children exposed prenatally to methamphetamine
About this project

The use of methamphetamine (street names “P”, crystal meth) during pregnancy has escalated in recent years resulting in more methamphetamine- exposed children presenting to health, mental health and social services.  Evidence from our 15 year longitudinal Infant Development, Environment and Lifestyle (IDEAL) Study shows that children exposed prenatally to methamphetamine are also exposed to adverse home environments postnatally that include higher rates of poverty, maternal mental illness, ongoing problematic alcohol and illegal drug use and more involvement with Oranga Tamariki. Unknown is the impact these adverse childhood experiences or ACEs have for methamphetamine-exposed children during adolescence or whether there are protective factors in their environments.

Using longitudinal data from our IDEAL study, the current project will investigate whether adolescents aged 11-14 born to mothers who used methamphetamine during pregnancy have more health, mental health and behavioural problems than a non-exposed group of adolescents and whether these problems are the result of prenatal exposure to methamphetamine and/or adverse home environments. 

Who is involved?

Principal investigators: Jenny Rogers, Suzanne Stevens, Trecia Wouldes

Co-investigators: Andi Crawford, Nataliia Burakevych

How long will it take?

The current follow-up will take two years.

Who is funding this project?

Current Funding is Cure Kids, previous funders include Neurological Foundation, Auckland Medical Research Foundation, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a Division of the US National Institute of Health.

What we hope to achieve

Identifying the ongoing health and developmental effects of prenatal exposure to methamphetamine and the specific adverse circumstances and protective factors of the environments of the exposed children will enable the design of targeted interventions to ameliorate these effects.

Further information

Media related to this project:

Selected related publications:

Stevens, S., Rogers, J., Dansereau, L., DellaGrotta, S., Lester, B. M., & Wouldes, T. A. (2020). A prospective study of service use in the year after birth by women at high risk for antenatal substance use and mental health disorders. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. doi:10.1007/s11469-019-00207-w

Wouldes, T. A., & Lester, B. M. (2019). Stimulants: How big is the problem and what are the effects of prenatal exposure? Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 24(2), 155-160. doi:10.1016/j.siny.2019.01.011

Chakraborty, A., Anstice, N. S., Jacobs, R. J., LaGasse, L. L., Lester, B. M., Wouldes, T. A., & Thompson, B. (2015). Prenatal exposure to recreational drugs affects global motion perception in preschool children. Scientific Reports, 5, 8 pages. doi:10.1038/srep16921

Wouldes, T. A., Lagasse, L. L., Huestis, M. A., Dellagrotta, S., Dansereau, L. M., & Lester, B. M. (2014). Prenatal methamphetamine exposure and neurodevelopmental outcomes in children from 1 to 3 years. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 42, 77-84. doi:10.1016/

Abar, B., LaGasse, L. L., Wouldes, T., Derauf, C., Newman, E., Shah, R., Smith, L. M., Arria, A. M., Huestis, M. A., DellaGrotta, S., Dansereau, L. M., Wilcox, T., Neal, C. R., & Lester, B. M. (2014). Cross-national comparison of prenatal methamphetamine exposure on infant and early child physical growth: a natural experiment. Prevention Science: The Official Journal of the Society for Prevention Research, 15(5), 767-776. doi:10.1007/s11121-013-0431-5

Selected invited talks:

2020 Prenatal Methamphetamine: From Birth to Adulthood. Substance Use in Pregnancy and Parenting Service (SUPPS) from the Countryside to the Coast on your Computer.  Webinar organized by the University of New South Wales for Clinicians across Australia and New Zealand.

2019 Prenatal Drug Exposure and the Search for Early Biobehavioural Markers. Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand, PSANZ Annual Meeting, Gold Coast Australia.

2019 Maternal Use of Methamphetamine, Consequences for the Mother and Her Child. Auckland, New Zealand Lactation Consultants Annual Meeting, Auckland, NZ.

2019 Maternal Substance Abuse and the Road to Developing Early Interventions. Canterbury University, School of Education, Department of Health & Human Development, Christchurch.

2018 Maternal Substance Abuse and the Road to Developing Early Interventions.  Mater Research, Brisbane, Australia.

Related research:

A Kaupapa Māori qualitative project undertaken in Te Wairoa. This project is a collaboration between Ngāti Pāhauwera and the Te Tātai Hauora O Hine Centre for Women’s Health Research at Victoria University Wellington. The aim of this study is to study the impact of “P” on the health and well-being of Māori pregnant women, their infants and whanau, explore existing services, develop co-designed interventions, and ultimately reduce harm from methamphetamine in Te Wairoa.