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Evaluation of the development of children whose mother is under methadone maintenance treatment during pregnancy

Author(s): Lien-Chung Wei, Chih-Tsai Chen, Sun-Yuan Chou, Chiung-Yueh Fan, Wan-Yun Liu, Hung-Yu Chan


An ongoing controversial issue is the developmental delay of infants associated with methadone treatment during pregnancy. Previous studies focused on Caucasian population, and most did not use a comprehensive assessment tool. This study used an appropriate assessment tool to evaluate these infants in a Taiwanese population.


The study proceeded from July 2006 to March 2010 in a large teaching psychiatric hospital in Taiwan. Three domains of the Bayley Scale of Infant Development, 3rd edition (Bayley-III) was used to evaluate the development of infants with histories of prenatal exposure to methadone. The evaluations were performed together by the same child psychiatrist and psychologist at the same month but the social-emotional rating relied on reports of the caregivers.


Eight children and their mothers participated. Five of eight children showed significant developmental delay; three had developmental delay in language composition, three had developmental delay in cognitive composition, but no developmental delay was seen for the social-emotional portion. Parental neglect was noticed in most cases.

Conclusions A substantial number of infants showed developmental delay. The use of methadone and a chaotic life-style associated with illicit drugs use during pregnancy both contributed to this developmental delay. Large studies are needed to clarify the risk of methadone for developmental delay in infants.

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