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MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse While Pregnant

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Ecstasy is an illicit drug that is frequently abused among young adults. This drug whose chemical name is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA for short, is structurally similar to amphetamine and has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects.

The use of MDMA while pregnant or at any time could present potential risks and this article will help you understand what those risks are and how to get treatment if you’re struggling with ecstasy use.


Effects of Ecstasy During Pregnancy

People who take MDMA while pregnant may experience a wide range of effects, including euphoria, a sense of openness, and increased energy. However, heavy, chronic use is associated with depression and problems with memory. Among pregnant women, ecstasy can lead to hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and anorexic effects—both of which may directly affect the developing fetus.1

When pregnant women use drugs like ecstasy, it can cause serious harm to their babies, including:2

  • Premature birth.
  • Developmental issues including delayed growth.
  • Cardiovascular issues (e.g., heart problems, increased stroke risk).

What If I Took Ecstasy Before I Knew I Was Pregnant?

Ecstasy is widely used by young people, including women of reproductive age. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 1.8% of young adults aged 18 to 25 years old were current users of hallucinogens, including ecstasy. Approximately 166,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years old) reported past month use of the drug.3 With so many women of reproductive age experimenting with ecstasy, it is common for women to have used the substance prior to finding out they were pregnant.

If you are worried because you took it before you knew you were pregnant:

  • Take a deep breath and try to relax.
  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible and let them know about your concerns.
  • Stop taking ecstasy and any other illicit drugs.

If you are unable to stop using ecstasy and/or any other drugs, call us today at 1-888-744-0069 to learn about your treatment options.


Effects of Using Ecstasy on Pregnant Women

One study found that women who used ecstasy during pregnancy had the following characteristics:4

  • Higher rates of unplanned pregnancy.
  • Higher rates of therapeutic abortion.
  • More likely to report binge drinking during pregnancy.
  • More likely to report smoking cigarettes during pregnancy.
  • More likely to use other illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and ketamine during pregnancy.

In addition, the use of ecstasy can adversely affect the mother’s physical and mental health. Ecstasy causes an increase in an individual’s stress hormones and this can lead to overstimulation and hyperthermia (i.e., high body temperatures). Also, after using ecstasy, a person can experience a number of changes that affect their behavior, mental state, and routine that include:5

  • Decrease in appetite.
  • Sadness.
  • Anger.
  • Aggression.
  • Trouble sleeping.

Another serious danger of using ecstasy during pregnancy is that the drug often contains adulterants, or counterfeit substances. A person may think that they are taking pure MDMA when in reality they are ingesting a number of unknown chemicals. One study found that a single ecstasy tablet contained over 14 compounds other than MDMA.6 One of the most concerning adulterants is the powerful opioid fentanyl, which can be deadly even in very small doses.

When a mother is healthy and abstaining from harmful substances like ecstasy, it goes a long way to ensure the safety of the baby both in utero and after birth.


Effects on the Baby After Birth

Using ecstasy during pregnancy may have a negative impact on your child’s health after birth. Clinical studies have shown that MDMA exposure in utero in the first trimester may lead to behavioral changes down the line, such as long-term memory problems and impaired learning.1

In addition, a handful of case studies in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands found the following effects in babies who were exposed to ecstasy in utero.7

Effects of ecstasy on newborn baby
  • Increased risk of congenital defects.
  • Cardiovascular anomalies.
  • Musculoskeletal problems.

Some studies have also found that babies who are born to mothers who use ecstasy have increased odds of:1,5

  • Reduced birth weight.
  • Alterations in gender ratio (more likely to have boys).
  • Motor development delays.
  • Poor milestone achievement at 4 months.

Quitting Ecstasy While Pregnant

If you are pregnant and addicted to ecstasy, the safest choice you can make for you and your baby is to seek professional treatment. In a rehab program, you can learn the skills to help you cope with stress and triggers that fuel your use. When you are pregnant, your safety and health are extremely important. There are treatment programs designed specifically to help ensure that you carry your baby to term in the healthiest manner possible.

If you are currently using ecstasy and you are thinking of quitting, there are ways to do it safely. Recovering from an ecstasy addiction can take time, but you do not have to do it alone. There are a multitude of treatment options that can help you learn how to address the underlying reasons for using substances.

Treatment for ecstasy addiction is often based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions. Cognitive behavioral interventions help teach individuals new skills such as how to find healthier ways to cope with life problems and how to modify negative behaviors that may have led to the development of addiction.

Treatment program options may include:

  • Inpatient or residential treatment: Inpatient treatment programs typically last 30 to 90 days, but can go longer depending on treatment plan and level of care. You live on-site while in treatment with supervision and 24-hour care.
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment requires you to visit the facility for a set number of hours per week. Depending on your personal treatment plan, you may meet with a therapist or attend group therapy with other people who are being treated for an addiction to ecstasy, in addition to other services that may be offered at the facility.
  • Luxury or executive treatment: These inpatient programs offer flexibility to work while living at the center and a number of amenities not normally available in standard residential programs.

If you are struggling with ecstasy addiction, we are here to help. It can be scary to make the call to get help, but our admissions navigators are available to take your confidential call 24/7. It’s not too late to make a change that can positively influence you and your baby. Give us a call today 1-888-744-0069 so you can start your journey to recovery.


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Dr. Thomas received his medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. During his medical studies, Dr. Thomas saw firsthand the multitude of lives impacted by struggles with substance abuse and addiction, motivating him to seek a clinical psychiatry preceptorship at the San Diego VA Hospital’s Inpatient Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program. In his post-graduate clinical work, Dr. Thomas later applied the tenets he learned to help guide his therapeutic approach with many patients in need of substance treatment. In his current capacity as Senior Medical Editor for American Addiction Centers, Dr. Thomas, works to provide accurate, authoritative information to those seeking help for substance abuse and behavioral health issues.
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