Dr. Robert Payne said Friday afternoon that premature labor is the leading cause of death for infants regarding drug abusing mothers.
"The use of meth," said Payne who is a medical director specializing in neonatology, "is becoming a pervasive problem," as he showed statistics comparing methamphetamine use in 2001 with this past year.
"There are more than 400-500 new users each year," he said referring to his research and studies conducted at the Children's Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota, "and approximately 35 million users worldwide."
"Seven percent of infants are exposed to drugs before birth," said Payne as he explained the severity of meth abuse.
"The malformations of the baby's body due to a mother's drug use start at the time the baby is in the womb,"
According to Payne's studies, 97% of delivered "crack-babies" survived, and only 17% of those pregnancies had mothers and fathers that were married.
One of the dramatic effects on these unborn infants is a process called gastroschisis; a problem which occurs due to drug use by the mother, which Payne describes as "creating a hole in the baby's abdomen about the size of a quarter."
"The issues," said Payne "are identifying abusers, identifying the drugs, recognizing the effects on motherhood, and intervening in a meaningful way."
Along with the many problems of drug use, drugs also have drastic effects throughout the duration of a pregnancy. Among those effects are maternal hypertension and premature labor; the latter Payne said "is currently the leading cause of death for babies."
The worst-case scenarios are during those in which the mother uses multiple drugs. He also said that there is a significant correlation in a baby's development from drug use along with smoking cigarettes.
Consequentially, meth users have increased heart rates, higher blood pressure and potentially could have a stroke.
Payne also said that meth use appears to be regional; something he considers a problem.
Payne is hopeful for what he calls our "100-year drug using society" to diminish, but is practical in realizing how unlikely that is, "and it's unfortunate," he said.