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Can a woman with ADHD take stimulant medication while pregnant?

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Note: Read this along with the related FAQ, Can a woman with ADHD take non-stimulant medications while pregnant?
With more and more women being diagnosed and treated for ADHD, the question of safe use of stimulant medications during pregnancy has become more critical. In general, stimulants (either the amphetamines like Adderall or methyphenidate like Concerta, Ritalin LA and Metadate CD) are all considered "Category C" teratogens. That means that they should only be used when the risk to the mother outweighs the risk to the fetus.

To date, the effects of stimulants during pregnancy have only been studied in animals, where defects were seen in the offspring when the mothers were given very high doses of the stimulants. The doses of stimulants given to animals for these studies have been 41x and 12x the usual human dose. The literature contains individual case reports of women who have taken stimulants during their pregnancy and, clinically, there have been many other women who have taken stimulants and have had normal babies.

The important questions for a woman who is being treated for ADHD and who is thinking about getting pregnant or who recently learned that she is pregnant are the following:

  • Should she discontinue stimulants prior to becoming pregnant?
  • Should she continue stimulants after her first 3 months?
  • Should she discontinue medication during the entire pregnancy?
  • What are the risks both to the mother and the baby if her ADHD goes untreated?

Each woman should decide the answers to these questions for herself after considering all of the available information and discussing these issues with her physician and significant others in her life. The problems with the stimulants have to do with cardiac defects, which usually occur because of problems during the formation stages of each organ system during the first trimester. To date, there are no large-scale studies to provide us with answers.

While we have tried to answer your question by providing information, this information should not be considered a substitute for medical advise and a women should always discuss such information with her treating physician.

Further Information

  • Medications and Pregnancy - information from CDC
  • OTIS (Organization of Teratology Information Specialists) -- OTIS is a non-profit organization made up of individual services throughout North America dedicated to providing accurate evidence-based, clinical information to patients and health care professionals about exposures during pregnancy and lactation.
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