Perinatal Substance Exposure and Long-Term Outcomes in Children: A Literature Review
Rachel Joseph, Emily Brady, Molly E. Hudson, and Macy M. Moran
Of the 4.3 million infants born annually in the United States, at least 800,000 are exposed to drugs during pregnancy. Such exposure in utero may be manifested as withdrawal symptoms in newborns, called neonatal abstinence syndrome. Some newborns require treatment to manage symptoms before discharge home. However, the long-term effect of perinatal substance exposure (PSE) is minimally documented in the literature. This review was conducted to examine the literature for the long-term effect of PSE. Databases PubMed, CINAHL, and Psych INFO were examined to obtain 30 articles for this review. Children exposed to drugs in utero may commonly experience cognitive and behavioral issues. Delayed language development and low school achievement, variations in anthropometric growth patterns, altered motor development, and impaired sensory development are common in children who were exposed to drugs in utero, which can cascade to have long-term implications on daily functioning. In addition, they may resort to risky behavior earlier in childhood. Undiagnosed or untreated deficits can have a negative impact on activities of daily living and social functions. Early identification and collaborative care can prevent lifelong negative consequences of PSE. Understanding the long-term impact of PSE can help family members, teachers, counselors, and health care providers better manage care for PSE-affected children and develop strategies to prevent severe consequences from PSE.