ADHD, medication, and pregnancy
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can impact every
area of your life. It can affect school and work as well as your personal
relationships and self-esteem. It was long believed that ADHD was a disorder
found only in children. But we now know that ADHD affects people throughout their
Due to the changes that come with pregnancy, ADHD can be especially
hard to manage while you’re pregnant. Still, pregnant women with ADHD must
continue to manage their condition well. It’s a time when you might think ADHD
medication could be especially helpful. But, pregnancy brings special concerns
for drug use of any kind. Here’s what you need to know about the safety of
taking Adderall during pregnancy.
Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant that combines the amphetamine
salts amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. The drug is used to reduce symptoms of
ADHD. It works by increasing the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine in the
brain. It also prompts cells to release more of these neurotransmitters. These
effects help people with ADHD focus and control their impulses better.
Adderall stays active in the body for four to six hours. It’s
available in short-acting and long-acting forms.
Side effects of Adderall can include:
- dry mouth
- loss of appetite
- sleeping trouble
a Schedule 2 drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. That means it
can be addictive. It also has a high potential for abuse.
Adderall is not safe to take during pregnancy
People with certain medical conditions should not take Adderall.
These include people with symptomatic heart disease, moderate to severe high
blood pressure, a history of drug abuse, and more. Among these people are also
Pregnant women should not take Adderall. According to the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration, Adderall is a pregnancy category C drug. That
means studies show side effects from Adderall in pregnant animals, but there’s
not enough evidence from studies in people to be conclusive.
That means the drug has not been confirmed as safe to use during
pregnancy. There haven’t been any well-controlled
studies that look at the drug’s effects in pregnant women, and there have been
negative reports of using the drug during pregnancy. There has been one report of severe birth defects in a
baby born to a woman who took dextroamphetamine (one of the components of
Adderall) with lovastatin during the first trimester of
Amphetamine, the other component of Adderall, should be used
during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to
the fetus. Infants born to mothers dependent on amphetamine have an increased
risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Also, these infants may have
symptoms of withdrawal.
Together, these human studies suggest that the ingredients in
Adderall are not safe for a pregnancy.
testing, mothers who were given Adderall showed
effects in their pregnancies. Their doses were equivalent to six times the
daily recommended dosage for a human child. The side effects included birth
defects and loss of pregnancy. Results from animal studies such as these are
why there haven’t been any good human studies done on Adderall use during
pregnancy – it’s too risky to do trials on pregnant women.
What’s more, Adderall
increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It may also reduce blood flow. These
effects may be especially harmful during pregnancy.
Learn more: Complications of abnormal blood pressure during pregnancy »
Adderall and breastfeeding
Adderall is also not recommended when you’re breastfeeding. This
is because the drug can pass through breastmilk and cause side effects in a
child who is breastfed. Side effects can
- loss of appetite
- insomnia (trouble falling or
- failure to thrive
What happens to ADHD during pregnancy
All pregnant women go through a slew of hormonal and emotional
changes. These can be especially tough to manage if you also have ADHD. For
this reason, symptoms of ADHD tend to become worse during pregnancy. But know
that each pregnancy is unique. Some women may actually have fewer ADHD symptoms
at certain stages during pregnancy, while others may experience an increase in
ADHD symptoms or even have new symptoms.
Discover: Effects of adult ADHD on relationships »
Your ADHD and your child
ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder. This means it’s caused by a
problem in the brain. The condition may make it difficult to focus and pay
attention. It can also cause behavioral problems. Emotional disorders,
particularly depression and anxiety, are also common in people with ADHD.
ADHD also tends to run in
families. According to Children
and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, if a parent has ADHD, there’s a 50 percent chance that the child
will have it, too.
ADHD may start in the womb. Children are more likely to have the
condition when their mother smokes or uses drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
Also, if a mother is exposed to environmental toxins such as polychlorinated
biphenyls (PCBs) during pregnancy, her child is at greater risk of having ADHD.
The cause of ADHD is not fully understood, but there are some
clues. A number of studies, including a brain imaging study published in
of the American Medical Association,
have found that people with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine
than normal. Dopamine and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters that
send messages between cells. They’re part of your body’s system of reward and
Toxin exposure is also linked to ADHD. These toxins include
mercury and lead found in older paint and pipes.
Learn more: Avoiding lead
Talk with your doctor
In general, it is not recommended to take Adderall during
pregnancy. The drug can harm you or your unborn baby. Work with your doctor to
find other ways to manage your ADHD during pregnancy, such as through massage,
yoga, therapy, or supplements.
Keep reading: The most
natural treatment of all, green space therapy »