Unfortunately, pregnant people are often excluded from research on medication. The ADHD community, though, received some welcoming news. A long-overdue study investigated children’s brain development after exposure to stimulants in the womb. The encouraging results have now paved the way for making an informed decision.
No Higher Risk For Baby’s Brain through ADHD Stimulants
First things first and worth a sigh of relief: The researchers haven’t found any increased risk of growth or developmental disorders. They mainly looked into:
- Neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders (including autism and ADHD)
- Impairments in vision or hearing
- Febrile seizures
- Growth impairment during childhood or adolescence
The study examined the brain development of children born between 1998 and 2015 in Denmark. Among the one million participants, 900 were exposed to ADHD medications in the womb. Their childbearing parent continued with or started taking one of the following stimulants during pregnancy:
1270 children in the comparison group were born by a parent that stopped taking ADHD medication before pregnancy.
The result of this study was instinct. Brain development and growth in both groups did not differ. There is no higher risk of adverse developmental effects for children exposed to ADHD stimulants in the womb.
ADHD Medication During Pregnancy: Not Uncommon
These findings reassure pregnant people who depend on ADHD medication for daily functioning. And you have the opportunity of an informed decision! Knowing that stimulants do not raise the odds of brain defects in your baby might tip the scale for you. And you are not alone if you decide pro meds.
More than 1% of pregnant people take stimulants. One percent does not sound like much. But it is enough to grade ADHD meds as one of the most prescribed treatments during pregnancy.
Pregnant people still have to deal with a research gap, as the mentioned study looked only at long-term effects. There might be a risk of short-term outcomes like low birth weight or preeclampsia.
Pros and Cons of ADHD Stimulants
You now know the current scientific research on prenatal medical ADHD treatments. Here are some pros and cons that might also be helpful for your decision:
- Substantial improvements in ADHD symptoms
- Decreased risks for a wide range of ADHD-associated functional outcomes
- No adverse long-term neurodevelopmental and growth outcomes
- Best-known and most common ADHD treatment
- Short-term outcomes are mainly unexplored
- Side effects like sleep problems or decreased appetite are possible
- Pricey, if not covered by your insurance
- Your ADHD brain needs to remember to take them!
Untreated ADHD During Pregnancy
Do not stop taking your medication spontaneously if you plan to come off it—especially not during the first trimester. This is when estrogen and progesterone levels rise rapidly, usually causing a surge in ADHD symptoms. There are various risks when allowing your ADHD to return to its unmanaged state, including
- Accidental injuries
- Car accidents
- Loss of emotional control
- Adverse effects on parenting
- Drug abuse
- Not able to work or job loss
ADHD and Pregnancy: Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
Please discuss possible risks with your healthcare provider whether you decide for or against meds. Let your support people know what you plan. Ask them for extra help, especially if you stop your medication.
Medical stimulants are often a very effective way to treat ADHD. But it is also worth looking into alternative methods such as:
- Specific training
- Nutritional changes
- Combined treatments
Resources for Pregnant People with ADHD
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
- Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada (CADDAC)
Katja Holzhei is a Health & Wellness Expert with 15+ years of experience in the yoga industry as a teacher and entrepreneur with her brand Neuland Yoga. She is, among others, certified in Lamaze Childbirth Education, Pre- and Postnatal Yoga, Fertility Yoga, Female health yoga, and Integrative Somatic Trauma Therapy. As a copywriter and content creator with almost 20 years of work experience, Katja specializes in mental and physical health-related themes. You can follow Katja on Instagram: Neuland Yoga or connect on LinkedIn.