Cocaine and development: mechanisms of fetal toxicity and neonatal consequences of prenatal cocaine exposure

Jeannine L. Gingras*, Debra E. Weese-Mayer, Roderick F. Hume, Karen J. O'Donnell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Scopus citations


As cocaine use during pregnancy has become increasingly recognized, there also has been increased concern about the toxic and teratogenic properties of cocaine on the fetus. A significant literature exists describing the adverse fetal and neonatal outcomes associated with in utero cocaine exposure. However, specific causality by cocaine on outcome in the human is difficult to ascertain because of multiple confounding variables associated with substance abuse including social factors and polydrug use as well as difficulty in confirming timing, dose and frequency of cocaine exposure. Most literature suggests that prenatal cocaine exposure is associated with developmental risk to the fetus. What is currently unknown is the extent of risk, the additive and/or synergistic factors contributing to cocaine's toxicity and the reversibility of the injury. In this paper we review the pharmacologic properties of cocaine as related to a model of mechanisms for developmental injury secondary to cocaine exposure and the published literature on the adverse fetal and neonatal outcomes associated with cocaine use during pregnancy. Specific attention has been focused on the structural, neurobehavioral and respiratory control teratogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalEarly Human Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1992



  • cocaine
  • developmental injury
  • in utero cocaine exposure
  • prenatal cocaine exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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