Arizona Attorney General

Mark Brnovich



How Can Meth Exposure Impact Pregnancy and Birth?

Risk to the embryo and fetus during pregnancy can occur both in the production and use of meth. Some of the toxins created in making meth can cause malformation of an embryo and result in congenital defects and stillbirth.

Meth use during pregnancy can increase maternal blood pressure and heart rate, increasing the risk of premature delivery or spontaneous abortion. Meth also constricts blood vessels in the placenta, resulting in reduced blood flow to the fetus and, thereby, a reduced oxygen and nutrient supply. Meth passes through the placenta and can cause elevated fetal blood pressure, which in turn can lead to prenatal stroke or damage to the heart or other major organs. It can also slow or alter fetal growth. With the exception of any major organ system damage, birth outcomes are thought to improve if the mother stops using meth in the last trimester of the pregnancy.

Upon birth, babies exposed to meth in utero are frequently very sleepy for the first few weeks, often not waking to feed. After this time, they are often jittery, irritable and have a shrill cry. Some infants have withdrawal symptoms and need treatment for withdrawal. Infants exposed to meth in utero are also at increased risk for SIDS, viral hepatitis and HIV.