Prenatal exposure to drugs of abuse using meconium analysis in a low socioeconomic population in Barcelona

O. García-Algar, O. Vall Combelles, C. Puig Sola, A. Mur Sierra, G. Scaravelli, R. Pacifici, T. Monleón Getino, S. Pichini

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43 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: For the first time in Europe, the «Meconium Project» aimed to estimate the prevalence of drug use by pregnant women and the subsequent foetal exposure to illicit drugs. Patients and method: Between October 2002 and February 2004, 1209 mother-infant dyads from the Hospital del Mar, Barcelona, Spain met eligibility criteria and agreed to participate in the study. Data on socio-economic and demographic characteristics and on drug habits during pregnancy were collected using a structured questionnaire. Neonatal meconium was collected within 24 h after birth and analyzed by standardized chromatographic techniques for the presence of opiates, cocaine, cannabinoids and amphetamines. Results: Meconium analysis showed an overall 10.9% positivity for drugs of abuse, with a specific prevalence of heroin, cocaine and cannabis with foetal exposure of 4.7, 2.6 and 5.3%, respectively. Structured interviews also revealed that 0.3, 1.2 and 1.5% of mothers used heroin, cocaine and cannabis, respectively, while only one mother declared ecstasy consumption, confirmed by meconium analysis. Parental ethnicity and working class was not associated with drug use. Drug consuming mothers were shown to have a higher number of previous abortions when compared to non-consumer mothers, which was probably due to a lack of family planning. Significantly lower birth weight and length was found in newborns from mothers exposed to cocaine alone or in combination with other drugs. Conclusions: This study, although developed in a low socio-economic-status cohort, may serve as an eye opener for any hidden non-negligible drug consumption during pregnancy. In this sense, meconium analysis can be important to identify neonates with a high suspicion of exposure to drugs of abuse in utero, and provides the basis for appropriate treatment and adequate medical and social follow-up. © 2008 Asociacin Espaola de Pediatra. Todos los derechos reservados.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-158
JournalAnales de Pediatria
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2009


  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Drugs of abuse
  • Foetal exposure
  • Meconium
  • Opiates


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