Can I Take Adderall While Pregnant?

Woman taking medication

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When you first get pregnant, you may immediately start wondering whether you can continue taking your prescription medicines. And if your overall wellbeing would be impacted by not taking certain medications, thoughts like these can be stressful.

Many people rely on Adderall (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine) to help them focus and perform to their best abilities. If you take Adderall to improve your Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD) symptoms, you will most likely want to start planning on how to function without it for the next nine months. Research shows that Adderall can cause birth defects, so it is not considered safe to take during pregnancy.

"Taking Adderall while pregnant may increase the risk of congenital defects affecting certain organs," says Kim Langdon, MD, an Ohio-based OB/GYN with over 20 years of experience. "I do not advise taking it unless your symptoms are so severe without it, that daily life is unmanageable."

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is made from amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It works to combat ADHD's symptoms, such as difficulty focusing and staying still and problems with impulse control. It may also be used to treat narcolepsy.

This drug is classified as a central nervous system stimulant and it works by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. These two neurotransmitters improve concentration and mood. Adderall works so well in treating ADHD because it helps people stay focused while also reducing anxiety.

Is It Safe to Take Adderall During Pregnancy?

Adderall is not safe to take during pregnancy because it can cause birth defects. The risks are fairly low, but more research needs to be done before we will know whether limited amounts are OK to take. For now, it is best to avoid Adderall when you are expecting.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) classifies Adderall as a category C drug, meaning that animal studies have shown it to harm the fetus, but no human trials have been carried out. Class C drugs should be avoided when pregnant, except in rare cases when the benefits may outweigh the risks.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking Adderall while pregnant.

What If I Take Adderall Before Realizing I'm Pregnant?

If you took Adderall before you knew you were pregnant, know that this is common and you are probably fine. If you took a pregnancy test around the time of your missed period, the umbilical cord would not have formed yet, so you would not have passed the drug to your baby, Dr. Langdon notes. Inform your healthcare provider and halt usage of Adderall.

If you took Adderall longer than about five weeks into a pregnancy, your provider may do additional tests to check for birth defects. The risk is low so it's likely your baby will be fine, so long as you stop taking the drug once you find out you are pregnant.

Risks of Adderall While Pregnant

Adderall may lead to birth complications, and it is not considered safe for a developing fetus. Risks of taking Adderall while pregnant include the following.

Birth Defects

Taking Adderall while pregnant has been linked to birth defects. One birth defect is gastroschisis, where the baby's intestines form outside of the body. This must be fixed with surgery.

Omphalocele is another defect where the baby's organs form outside the body in a transparent sac. Omphalocele must also be fixed with surgery. Lastly, transverse limb deficiency is when one or more of the arms and legs fail to fully develop.

Complications for the Birthing Parent

Adderall comes with risks, whether you are pregnant or not. It can cause problems like insomnia, depression, irritability, headaches, and weight loss when taken over the long term. These kinds of side effects may be undesirable or downright dangerous during pregnancy. Adderall is also addictive.

Low Birth Weight

Research indicates that dextroamphetamine, an ingredient in Adderall, may be linked to low birth weight. Low birth weight babies are born weighing less than five pounds eight ounces, and they face additional risks, including breathing problems, jaundice, and an underdeveloped immune system.

When Can I Resume Taking Adderall?

You can start taking Adderall again after you give birth. Once the umbilical cord is cut, you no longer have to worry about substances transferring from your blood into your baby's. Check with a healthcare provider in case you were given any drugs during labor and delivery or postpartum that should not be mixed with Adderall.

If you are breastfeeding, you may want to continue to hold off on taking Adderall. Dexamphetamine transfers to breastmilk, so you will pass it to your infant.

"If you are breastfeeding, this is a decision that will need to be made collectively as a team between you, your psychiatrist, your OBGYN, and pediatrician," says Megan Gray, M.D., an OBGYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates. "The medication is secreted to some degree in the breastmilk, but the known neurological effects on the newborn and infant are limited at this time."

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

For your nine months of pregnancy, here are some safe alternatives to Adderall to consider.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation helps to bring the brain to the present moment. The practice helps to relieve anxiety and improves focus and it can help with emotional regulation, executive functioning, and other ADHD symptoms.

Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback, also called neurotherapy, is a medication alternative for ADHD. In a series of sessions, the patient is hooked up to electrodes and can see real-time feedback about what their brain is doing on a screen. This treatment allows patients to learn how to change and improve their neurological functions, and it has been successful in treating ADHD.

Physical Exercise

Getting plenty of physical exercise helps to alleviate common ADHD symptoms such as difficulty with executive functioning, impulsivity, focusing, and sitting still. Studies that looked at the link between physical exercise and ADHD found that exercise positively targets the same areas in the brain that are affected by ADHD.

A Word From Verywell

Adderall is not considered safe to take during pregnancy. The latest research suggests that Adderall use raises your baby's risk of being born with birth defects and of being born at low birth weight.

More research needs to be done for us to see the full picture, but for now, it is important to abstain from Adderall when you are expecting. There may be rare exceptions when a healthcare provider might decide that the benefits outweigh the risks. If you have any questions or concerns about taking Adderall while pregnant, reach out to a healthcare provider.

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