Thinking About Parenthood? Consider This

 ADHD Weekly 2017-05-04

Having children can bring significant joy and satisfaction to our lives. Watching a child develop and helping her learn and grow are fulfilling for many parents. Working with your partner to raise a healthy, happy child can bring you closer together.

Raising children is challenging. It will test your patience, resolve and maturity. For women who are affected by ADHD, the stress can be even greater. So why choose to have and raise children? There are many reasons women choose to become mothers; there are also many reasons women decide not to have or raise children. For some, caring for a baby provides a sense of purpose. For others, it has never been an option not to have children.

When you consider becoming a parent, there are several things to be aware of before you and your partner make the decision to have children. Understanding the potential challenges faced by a woman affected by ADHD can help you make decisions towards a more successful pregnancy and parenthood.

Medications and pregnancy

While a recent analysis of a long-term study shows there is an increase in the usage of stimulant medications during pregnancy, most doctors recommend their patients stop taking stimulants as part of ADHD treatment a year prior to getting pregnant.

A recent article in the American Journal of Psychiatry states stimulant medications are not considered safe for use during pregnancy. The authors point out that there is a lack of studies focusing on pregnant women with ADHD and the medications have not been shown to cause major congenital malformations, but there is not enough evidence to show that they do not cause harm. Better safe than sorry, according to medical thinking.

If you take medications to help manage your ADHD symptoms and you decide you want to start a family, talk with your doctor about preparing for pregnancy and her recommendations for you. To learn more, visit ADHD Medication and Pregnancy.

Reassurance for unplanned pregnancies

Your decision to postpone having a child can have an unplanned change of plans. This happens in about 45 percent of pregnancies. You might have become pregnant before stopping your medication. Should you be worried for your developing baby?

While medication for ADHD is not likely to cause immediate harm, it is something you should discuss with your healthcare provider. Research is showing the medication in early stages of pregnancy is unlikely to contribute towards birth defects, but continuing on medication is not recommended once pregnancy is known.

While some ADHD medications may cause side effects in pregnancy, many do not. Safety of these medications for developing babies is not well-established and the possibility for loss of pregnancy is slightly increased over the average risks for most women. If you suspect you’re pregnant, make an appointment with your doctor right away to discuss your options and the best methods for you to continue treatment.

No more meds. Now what?

The thought of going off stimulant medications can produce significant anxiety for many people. Your symptoms will likely increase and possibly affect your life in negative ways. Medications provide support in treating ADHD but they are not a cure for ADHD. There are many non-medication tools to use to build your skills and help you effectively manage ADHD symptoms. Among them are:

  • Exercise. Exercise can be an important adjunct treatment for individuals with ADHD, improving cognitive functions, boosting sleep quality and duration, and enhancing self-esteem—all important factors during pregnancy. Discuss exercising options throughout pregnancy with your doctor or a trainer who specializes in working with pregnant mothers.

There are more options for managing ADHD symptoms without medications, in addition to the ones mentioned. These tools not only help you to manage ADHD symptoms, they can be a vital support for you in parenting. Children do well with structure; it provides a sense of security and helps them learn how to function in complex situations.  Having a plan and creating structure helps reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Learning these skills while pregnant will help you later as a parent.

To learn more, read Tips for Help in Managing ADHD with Non-Medication Interventions, Part 2 and Part 2. Always discuss any non-medication options you’ve researched with your doctor; some preparations described as “natural” can be harmful to a developing baby.

Thinking about pregnancy?

There are several factors to consider when thinking about starting a family. Talking with your ADHD specialist and your gynecologist before becoming pregnant can answer many of your questions and guide you in creating a plan for continuing treatment without medication. When pregnancy is unintended, meeting with your doctor as soon as possible can lead to a healthy outcome for you and your child.

You have non-medication options for continuing treatment for ADHD during pregnancy. Your doctor can offer you guidance on which ones are best for you.

For more resources when considering pregnancy: