“The field of prenatal cocaine exposure has advanced significantly since the misleading ‘crack baby’ scare of the 1980s,” the review authors said.
In recent years experts have mostly discounted any link, noting that so-called crack babies often were born prematurely, which could account for many of their early symptoms. Studies that tracked children beyond infancy have failed to find any severe outcomes.
In some studies included in the new review, crack-exposed teens had lower scores on developmental tests than other children but their scores were still within normal limits. Many studies found that the children’s family environment or violence were directly related to the teen’s performance regardless of whether their mothers had used cocaine during pregnancy, the researchers said.
The government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that it’s tough to evaluate how drug use during pregnancy affects children’s development because so many other factors play a role, including prenatal care, mothers’ health and family environment.