ADD & ADHD Medications and Pregnancy – How to Know What’s Safe

*The following information does not take the place of medical advice to start, stop, or continue taking any kind of medication, including medication for ADD/ADHD. Talk to your doctor to decide what is right for you. 

It’s estimated that between 3-5% of people who can become pregnant have attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Prescription medications to manage ADD/ADHD symptoms can be very effective and even critical for some people to function in their lives. People who regularly take these stimulant medications want to know if it’s safe to continue taking them while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. MotherToBaby, the nation’s leading authority and most trusted source of evidence-based information on the safety of medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding, has extensive information on what we know and don’t know about ADD/ADHD medication use around the perinatal period. 

First and foremost, if you are planning on becoming pregnant or recently found out that you are pregnant and are on medication for ADD/ADHD , talk to your your doctor. With most ADD/ADHD medications, it is not advised to stop taking them abruptly. 

Unfortunately, medications used for ADD/ADHD have not been studied in great detail, which means the data we have on their safety for human pregnancies is limited, making it difficult to determine exact risks. However, according to MotherToBaby, based on the limited data we do have:

…taking a prescribed daily dose of methylphenidate or other ADD/ADHD medications during pregnancy hasn’t shown increased risks for having a baby with a birth defect. Nor have we seen an increased risk for pregnancy complications like preterm delivery or low birth weight. Plus, babies exposed to prescription levels of methylphenidate in utero that were studied up to a year of age have had normal development.

MotherToBaby advises learning about the specific medication you take for more specific information, if it is available. They offer an extensive list of factsheets that answer questions about a medication’s risk for conception, miscarriage, pregnancy, birth defects, and long-term health risks for baby. Much of the data we do have for these medications is based on misuse of these drugs and is noted as such on each of the fact sheets. For information from MotherToBaby on specific ADD/ADHD medications, check out the following factsheets:

 

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