As a matter of fact, no ADHD medications (which are often classified as stimulants) have been proven to be safe for use during pregnancy. This includes Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, and other popular medications used to treat the symptoms of ADHD.
Despite this, none of these medications have been proven to be harmful, at least according to the FDA.
Is It Safe to Take Adderall During Pregnancy?
Although it is rare for an individual to take Adderall during pregnancy, the CDC reports that the number of women taking medication for ADHD while pregnant more than doubled within the span of 2008 to 2011.
Even though it has not been proven that taking Adderall is either safe or unsafe during pregnancy, it’s important to understand that there are risks to taking this sort of medication, both to the mother and to the developing baby.
With so little supporting information on either side of the argument, it’s probably safest to abstain from Adderall and other forms of medication prescribed for the treatment of ADHD during pregnancy.
Risks of Taking Adderall During Pregnancy
Adderall is categorized as a Pregnancy Category C drug by the FDA, which means that it is unclear whether it is safe to take while pregnant, both for the mother and the developing baby.
Increased muscle contraction, which is symptomatic of Adderall and other medications used for the treatment of ADHD, can lead to decreased blood flow, both to the individual and the fetus.
Adderall can increase the likelihood of insomnia and cause loss of appetite, which can cause complications during pregnancy.
Taking Adderall while pregnant has been linked to an increased risk of preeclampsia, which is a hypertensive disease that is the underlying cause of up to 8 percent of complications that occur during pregnancy.
During early pregnancy, taking Adderall can also result in the following birth defects:
- Gastroschisis: This is a stomach defect, resulting in an abdominal hole that allows the intestines to extend from the belly. It requires surgical intervention after delivery.
- Omphalocele: This is another birth defect that affects the abdominal area, resulting in organs developing in a transparent sac outside of the belly. Surgical intervention is required and varies depending on the size of the growth.
- Transverse limb deficiency: This occurs when the upper or lower limbs do not form properly, resulting in a limb that is reduced in size or missing.
Risks of Adderall While Trying to Conceive
There are also inherent risks associated with taking Adderall at the time of conception or while attempting to conceive.
Although evidence is inconsistent regarding birth defects due to taking Adderall during pregnancy, there is still a chance that taking this ADHD medication during pregnancy can disrupt fetal development, which is why Adderall has been classified in Pregnancy Category C.
Unfortunately, there are not enough human studies that point one way or the other. Studies that have been conducted tend to look at individuals who took at least one Adderall prescription during the first trimester of pregnancy and only investigated live births. Current studies have not taken into consideration Adderall abuse and miscarriages.
Stimulant withdrawal symptoms have been observed in infants with mothers who were taking prescribed amphetamines during pregnancy. As a result, it is very possible that Adderall passes through the placenta.
Studies have also suggested that pregnant women who take Adderall may be at a higher risk of experiencing preterm birth (up to 20 percent more likely). The study notes that this result was significant in cases of at least 90 days of Adderall use. Results also demonstrated a 54 percent greater risk of placental abruption.
At the end of the day, the fact that there is not a clear link between taking Adderall during pregnancy and birth defects does not mean that it is safe to do so. The fact that there is not enough conclusive evidence to clearly define whether or not Adderall and other ADHD medications are safe to take during pregnancy inherently suggests risk.
Fortunately, there are safe alternatives for ADHD treatment during pregnancy for those who do not wish to take stimulants while carrying a child.
ADHD Treatment Alternatives for Pregnant Women
There are ADHD treatment alternatives for women who are pregnant.
The fact that Adderall increases levels of dopamine and noradrenaline suggests that nootropics may help relieve symptoms of ADHD during pregnancy. Many nootropics available on the market are not stimulants. Some nootropics present an all-natural solution that can support neurotransmitter production.
Other natural solutions for the treatment of ADHD-related symptoms include the following:
- Making dietary changes (such as increasing protein consumption and decreasing carbohydrate consumption)
- Creating a routine
- Engaging in counseling and therapy
- Practicing mindfulness techniques like meditation
- Exercising on a regular basis
- Safer alternatives like melatonin
How to Safely Come Off Adderall
Do not suddenly stop taking any medication without talking to your doctor. If you take Adderall and find out you are pregnant, contact your doctor immediately. They will best advise you on how to safely stop taking Adderall.
Depending on how long the individual has been taking Adderall, withdrawal symptoms can occur. If the individual has engaged in Adderall or stimulant abuse, rehabilitation may be necessary.
Safely coming off Adderall is often a matter of exploring treatment, engaging in behavioral therapy, and getting the proper amount of support after recovery. If you were taking Adderall according to a valid prescription, you likely have to begin other forms of ADHD treatment, such as non-stimulant approaches.
Adderall & Pregnancy FAQs
Can Adderall cause birth defects in early pregnancy?
Although studies suggest a link between Adderall use during pregnancy and birth defects, there is a lack of conclusive evidence on the subject. However, there are inherent risks associated with taking ADHD medication during pregnancy. As a general rule, it is not recommended to take Adderall during pregnancy.
Can you take Adderall during the first trimester?
Studies have suggested that Adderall is not safe to take during pregnancy, both for the mother and developing fetus. It is best to consult with your doctor who has access to your health history in order to make the correct decision for you and your baby. Most often, other forms of treatment will be recommended.
Do you have to stop taking Adderall when pregnant?
Because there is risk to both mother and baby when taking Adderall during pregnancy, it is generally recommended to stop taking Adderall if pregnant. However, you should never do this suddenly on your own. Consult your doctor about the best way to stop using Adderall while pregnant.
- Use of ADHD Medicine Is Increasing Among Pregnant Women. (July 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Preeclampsia. (January 2022). StatPearls.
- ADHD Medication Use During Pregnancy and Risk for Selected Birth Defects: National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1998–2011. (February 2020). Journal of Attention Disorders.
- Researchers See Small Increase in Birth Defect Risks With ADHD Medications. (March 2018). CHADD.
- Adverse Gestational Outcomes Associated With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Medication Exposure During Pregnancy. (2018). The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
- ADHD Doctors Weigh in on Taking Medication While Pregnant. (March 2022). ADDitude Magazine.
- Placental Complications Associated With Psychostimulant Use in Pregnancy. (December 2018). Obstetrics & Gynecology.
- Adderall and Pregnancy: Neonatal Outcomes Following Prenatal Prescription Mixed Amphetamine Exposure [36C]. (May 2018). Obstetrics & Gynecology.
- Increasing Use of ADHD Medications in Pregnancy. (February 2016). Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.