During pregnancy, women must make choices based not only on their own needs, but on the needs of their unborn child. For most women, this might include making sure they eat a healthy diet and getting extra rest. But for women with ADHD, the choice of whether or not to continue using medication might be the most difficult one.
Many women depend on medications for ADHD to help control symptoms, such as inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. During pregnancy, however, they must decide whether taking the medication is important enough to risk harm to their baby.
According to Dr. Patricia Quinn , questions involved in deciding on the safety of medication include:
- What effect, if any, will the medication cause on the developing fetus? Is there a risk of physical deformities? Is there a risk of later behavioral or cognitive problems?
- Will medication possibly cause premature birth?
- Will a baby be born small?
- Will the baby have withdrawal symptoms if exposed to ADHD medications while in the womb?
- What other long-term effects may result from taking ADHD medications?
Because research into whether these medications would cause harm would require women to take medications, very little data is available on what the risks are and how much of a risk the medication would be. Animal studies, although with obviously less risk to unborn children, are not always reliable because the amount of medication given to animals is often so much higher than what is normally prescribed that the information gained is not specific to humans.
A Few Study Results
According to the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the following are some of the few studies that have been completed :
- Some studies have been completed on women who abused amphetamines during pregnancy. These studies showed low birth weight, prematurity, and increased comorbidity. The study, however did not take into consideration possible other drugs or alcohol being used or other lifestyle choices.
- Another study looked at women taking dextroamphetamines for weight loss. This study also indicated a slightly lower birth weight but no difference in length or head circumference.
- A study showed no significantly higher risk of physical deformities or malformations in women taking amphetamines.
- A study of methylphenidate during pregnancy showed a higher rate of babies born prematurely, with cognitive impairments and being born with symptoms of withdrawal. The study, however, did not include a control group and did not take into account use of cigarettes, alcohol or other drugs.
- Animal studies on atomoxetine showed decreased fetal weight and decreased pup survival. However, dosing in this study may or may not result in any results relating to human consumption of the medication.
Most researchers are not willing to make definitive statements as to the safety of ADHD medications based on these limited studies.