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ADHD Medication and Pregnancy What Research Says

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children.. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.

Scientists have not yet identified the specific causes of ADHD. While there is growing evidence that genetics contribute to ADHD and several genes have been linked to the disorder, no specific gene or gene combination has been identified as the cause of the disorder. However, it is important to note that relatives of individuals with ADHD are often also affected. There is evidence of anatomical differences in the brains of children with ADHD in comparison to other children without the condition. For instance, children with ADHD have reduced grey and white brain matter volume and demonstrate different brain region activation during certain tasks.

Further studies have indicated that the frontal lobes, caudate nucleus, and cerebellar vermis of the brain are affected by ADHD. Several non-genetic factors have also been linked to the disorder such as low birth weight, premature birth, exposure to toxins (alcohol, smoking, lead, etc.) during pregnancy, and extreme stress during pregnancy.

New research has now revealed that children who were exposed to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications their moms took during pregnancy are not more prone to neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD or autism.

The news may be welcome to women who’ve needed to take ADHD medication throughout their pregnancy.

“We can see that the number of women of childbearing age who are medicated for ADHD is rapidly increasing, and therefore it is very important to garner more knowledge to be able to counsel these women,” said study co-author Dr. Veerle Bergink, director of the Women’s Mental Health Program at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“We know that there is an increased risk of accidents or losing a job when women do not take ADHD medication, when it is indicated,” Bergink said in a Mount Sinai news release. “There are still unknowns, but these results may contribute to women making informed decisions about using ADHD medication during pregnancy.”

Researchers at Icahn and the National Centre for Register-Based Research at Aarhus University in Denmark examined more than 1 million children born between 1998 and 2015 in Denmark and followed through 2018.

The data included nearly 900 children whose mothers either continued using ADHD medication throughout pregnancy or started on ADHD medication during pregnancy. It also included 1,270 children whose mothers stopped taking ADHD medication before pregnancy.

The research team found no differences in the likelihood of developing a neurodevelopmental disorder among the groups.

Researchers considered conditions that included autism and ADHD, impaired vision or hearing, epilepsy, febrile seizures, or growth retardation.

Previous animal studies and studies of illicit drug use in humans had found that some of the medications used for ADHD could pass to the fetus and have adverse effects.

About 4% of American women ages 15 to 44 are using ADHD medication, according to the CDC.

No clinical guidelines exist in relation to pregnancy and ADHD medication.

More research is needed, the authors said, including an inquiry into short-term outcomes. ADHD medication during pregnancy might be associated with other types of outcomes besides neurodevelopmental conditions, they added.

The findings were published Feb. 9 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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