Crack Babies

Crack babies is a term coined in the 1980's referring to an increase in babies that were being born to mothers using cocaine, or crack, during there pregnancies. This resulted in a number of babies being born with symptoms of cocaine use and withdrawal.


One of the biggest drug scares of recent years has been the concern over crack babies. When the crack cocaine epidemic raged in the early 1980s, there were concerns about damage done to the unborn children of crack users. Indeed, there was speculation that these babies would be born addicted to crack, and have a number of other serious effects. However, the crack epidemic didn’t lead to a lost generation, as predicted. Even so, crack use during pregnancy can still have serious effects, even if the problem was originally exaggerated.

Possible effects of crack use on a fetus

“Crack babies” are those children whose mothers used some form of crack during pregnancy. While some babies seem to show some symptoms of withdrawal after birth, there is no solid evidence that a true dependency on crack cocaine is developed in the womb. However, there are a number of complications that can result from the use of crack during pregnancy.

Some of the damage to the unborn child might include the following, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Subtle deficits in cognitive performance.
  • Problems with information processing.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Attention problems.

While the assertions of severe mental and social development damage to crack babies were overstated, there was some truth to the hype. In small ways, crack babies may be at a disadvantage.  Small deficits in key areas can lead to difficulties in school, and some crack babies need additional attention and help.

The March of Dimes also notes that there are possibly harmful effects that can result from crack use during pregnancy. Studies have shown that crack use can increase the chance of miscarriage, as well as possibly triggering preterm labor. Preterm labor can result in a number of complications for a baby. Crack babies born early can have other problems. Problems associated with low birth rate, including disability, mental problems and cerebral palsy, can come as a result of crack use during pregnancy. Additionally, there are indications that crack cocaine, when used by a mother during pregnancy, can cause stroke or heart attack in an unborn baby.

Crack babies today

While there is a chance of health problems and other issues from the use of crack by a pregnant woman, the fact of the matter is that many of the dire prognostications of the 1980s and early 1990s didn’t come to pass. Doctors and researchers have been following crack babies for years, and logging their progress. It appears that there are small differences, that can add up in some cases, but that crack is no more harmful to a fetus than smoking, and may even be less harmful than fetal exposure to alcohol. The New York Times points out that, while there are very real problems that can result from crack use during pregnancy, it appears that crack may not be worse for the unborn than other harmful substances.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to go out and smoke crack during pregnancy. There are still real risks, and, just as smoking and alcohol can cause damage to an unborn baby, crack can as well. It is best to consider your diet and your use of substances in order to be healthy. Any controlled substance is probably not good for your baby - including crack cocaine.

Related Article: Effects of Crack Cocaine >>