Desperate need for research on tik and pregnancy
CAPE TOWN – A study conducted among pregnant women attending an antenatal clinic at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town has found that 10% of the prospective mothers were abusing the drug Methamphetamine or tik as it is know in the Western Cape.
Chantal Stewart of the University of Cape Town told a meeting at the 14th FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology & Obstetrics) World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics that although more research was needed there was evidence that the drug restrained the growth of the fetus and that the babies showed signs of irritability that could persist for years.
‘The long-term effects of this drug on the baby are still unknown,’ said Stewart, calling for further studies.
Tik is the most commonly abused recreational drug in Cape Town followed by Cannabis (dagga), cocaine and heroin. Evidence from KwaZulu-Natal is showing that heroin is increasingly becoming the drug of choice for people younger than 20 years.
Stewart said it was challenging to conduct research among pregnant women due to the stigma and judgmental attitudes they often experience when accessing ante-natal care.
In South Africa cocaine has up to now been linked to more affluent users, however Stewart said there was some evidence that this was changing. Research has found that there was a seven times higher rate of syphilis among cocaine users, a five time higher rate of hepatitis and a 20 times higher rates of HIV infection.
‘Pregnant women abusing cocaine are also less likely to attend ante-natal care and there is evidence that there is a danger of among others the placenta rupturing and signs which mimic pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure),’ said Stewart.
No cocaine withdrawal has been recorded among the babies of mothers abusing cocaine.
In the case of heroin, researchers have recorded an increase in various infections including hepatitis, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.
There was also a 30% increase in pre-term delivery with an increase in first trimester miscarriage. Newborns were also often underweight and suffered from various neonatal infections as well as heroin withdrawal.