Deepening research shows babies who are exposed to cocaine or methamphetamine in the womb fare similarly to other babies as they age.
Moreover, terms such as "crack baby” and "meth baby” are pejorative and not based in scientific research, said scientists, physicians and social workers who spoke at the "Women, Pregnancy and Drug Use: Medical Facts, Practical Responses and the Well-Being of Children and Families” seminar Wednesday afternoon at the Presbyterian Health Foundation Conference Center.
Barry Lester, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics who heads the Brown University Center for Study of Children at Risk, worked to debunk the notion that prenatal exposure to cocaine and meth is extremely damaging to babies.
Two studies Lester has contributed to, including one ongoing in Tulsa, show minor differences between babies born to cocaine- and methamphetamine-using mothers and those born to mothers who don't use the drugs.
Speakers said prosecution of pregnant women for drug abuse deterred them from seeking drug treatment and prenatal care, and negatively affected their children.
Dr. Eli Reshef, an obstetrician-gynecologist and assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, compared prosecution of pregnant drug abusers to punishing obese mothers and those who smoke.
"A smoker has more risk of harming the baby than someone who uses meth,” he said.