The literature strongly suggests that prenatal exposure to certain medications and substances does not cause major malformations in early childhood. However, these exposures may have far-reaching latent health effects, such as restricted growth, hypertension, and cardiovascular events in adulthood. We reviewed the literature to identify the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on growth and the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in late adolescence and early adulthood by examining studies that were published in peer-reviewed English-language journals from 1990 through 2009 and indexed in MEDLINE. We found that animal and clinical studies of the influence of prenatal cocaine exposure on child and adolescent growth and the subsequent development of myocardial and cardiometabolic disease risk factors are few and inconclusive. Studies support the hypothesis that vascular and hemodynamic functions are partially programmed in early life and thus substantially influence vascular aging and arterial stiffening in later life. Sub-optimal fetal nutrition and growth may increase blood pressure and the development of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in late life. How prenatal cocaine and other drug exposure effects this relationship is currently unknown. Despite high rates of cocaine and other drug use during pregnancy (up to 18% in some studies), little is known about the health effects of prenatal cocaine exposure in adolescence and early adulthood. The few studies of early growth deficits persisting into adolescence are inconclusive. The literature provides little information on how exposed children grow into adulthood and about their subsequent risk of cardiometabolic and vascular disease.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Drug exposure
- Metabolic disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health