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Street drug use during pregnancy: potential programming effects on preschool wheeze

  • M. E. Alton (a1), S. C. Tough (a2), P. J. Mandhane (a3) and A. L. Kozyrskyj (a3)


Street drug use during pregnancy is detrimental to fetal development. Although the prevalence of wheeze is high in offspring of substance-abusing mothers, nothing is known about the role of street drug use during pregnancy in its development. We investigated the impact of maternal street drug use and distress during pregnancy on the development of wheeze and allergy in preschool children. Questionnaire data were accessed from the Community Perinatal Care trial of 791 mother–child pairs in Calgary, Alberta. Using logistic regression, the association between maternal substance use and distress during pregnancy, and wheeze and allergy at age 3 years was determined in boys and girls. After adjusting for alcohol use during pregnancy, pre- and postnatal tobacco use, preterm birth, duration of exclusive breastfeeding, daycare attendance and maternal socioeconomic status, maternal street drug use during pregnancy [odds ratio (OR): 5.02, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.30–19.4] and severe maternal distress during pregnancy (OR: 5.79, 95% CI: 1.25–26.8) were associated with wheeze in girls. In boys, an independent association was found between severe distress during pregnancy (OR: 3.85, 95% CI: 1.11–13.3) and allergies, but there was no association with maternal street drug use. In conclusion, we found an association between maternal street drug use and wheeze in preschool girls that could not be accounted for by maternal distress, smoking or alcohol use during pregnancy. Prenatal programming effects of street drugs may explain this association.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr A. L. Kozyrskyj, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Alberta, 3-527 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405-87 Avenue, Edmonton, AB, T6G 1C9 Canada. (Email


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