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MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse

Can MDMA use during pregnancy harm the baby?

Given that most people who use MDMA are young and in their reproductive years,50 some females may use MDMA when pregnant. Research suggests that MDMA may have adverse effects on the developing fetus. One study in humans showed that prenatal MDMA exposure was associated with motor delays in the offspring up to 2 years after birth. More research is needed to determine if these delays persist later in life.108 Behavioral studies in animals have found significant adverse effects on tests of learning and memory following exposure to MDMA during a developmental period equivalent to the latter portion of the third trimester in humans.109 These changes are paralleled by long-lasting changes in brain regions underlying learning and memory.110 There is less research into the effects of MDMA on animals earlier in development—that is, during the period equivalent to the first trimester in humans.109,111 One study showed that MDMA exposure during this developmental period produces increased motor activity and changes in serotonin and dopamine function in rodents.112 In addition, rats prenatally exposed to MDMA and alcohol showed decreased exploratory activity, impaired working memory, and impaired neuronal development into adulthood, although the contribution of MDMA alone was not determined.113

This page was last updated September 2017

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NIDA. (2017, September 26). MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse

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​Research Reports

This series of reports simplifies the science of research findings for the educated lay public, legislators, educational groups, and practitioners. The series reports on research findings of national interest.

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