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Fetal Cocaine Exposure May Not Affect Kids' Academics: Study

WEDNESDAY, March 7 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to cocaine, tobacco or marijuana before birth does not cause children to score lower on academic tests, according to a new study.

Prenatal alcohol exposure, however, even in children with no signs of fetal alcohol syndrome, was associated with lower scores at age 11 in math reasoning and spelling, Boston University researchers found.

The negative associations between intrauterine alcohol exposure and lower test scores are significant, the researchers said, because the study controlled for other substances, and the children did not have fetal alcohol syndrome and had not been born preterm, all of which could potentially decrease test scores.

In conducting the study, which was published online in the journal Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, researchers collected academic achievement test scores from 119 low-income 11-year-olds enrolled in a study on cocaine exposure before birth. The researchers found that neither intrauterine exposure to cocaine nor exposure to tobacco or marijuana was associated with lower test scores.

The study authors said their findings could have serious implications for education.

"Study findings suggest the children with histories of even low-level [intrauterine exposure to alcohol] who experience school difficulties should be evaluated particularly for arithmetic skills and depressive symptoms and offered enhanced educational methods [and] interventions tailored to their needs," study author Ruth Rose-Jacobs, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

More information

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides more information on drugs and pregnancy.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Boston University Medical Center, news release, March 5, 2012

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