What You Need To Know About Adderall and Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

on June 24, 2024

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On June 24, 2024

What you will learn

  • Adderall is a combination drug of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine commonly used to treat ADHD.
  • Research is limited on the risks of Adderall exposure in utero. Risk to the fetus must be weighed against the benefits to the mother.
  • Adderall side effects can exacerbate normal pregnancy difficulties and should also be weighed against the benefits it is providing.
  • Adderall can pass through breast milk, and its use during breastfeeding should be discussed with a healthcare provider to weigh the potential risks and benefits.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Adderall Use During Pregnancy

Adderall is a combination stimulant of the two drugs, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is most commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Women who are considering becoming pregnant and also taking Adderall to treat their ADHD symptoms should be aware of the potential side effects to themselves and their fetuses. They should discuss the risks and benefits of taking Adderal while pregnant with their healthcare provider.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant and an FDA-approved ADHD treatment. It is also approved to treat narcolepsy. It treats ADHD symptoms such as improving attention, focus, and concentration and reducing restlessness, distractions, and impulsivity. Adderall works by increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain. [1]

Risks of Using Adderall During Pregnancy

What are the potential risks and safety considerations associated with using Adderall during pregnancy, and how can it affect both the mother and the developing baby?

ADHD medications are one of the most commonly prescribed medications during pregnancy. [2] However, due to the lack of research on using ADHD medication while pregnant and the consequences it may have in utero, many women chose to discontinue their ADHD medication while pregnant.

Effects on Pregnant Women

Discontinuing Adderall while pregnant may have minimal effects for some women, while others may struggle significantly. Those who experience more mental health concerns when discontinuing their ADHD medication while pregnant may have difficulties maintaining their employment and are at higher risk for serious health outcomes such as vehicular accidents, other accidents and injuries, and suicidality.[3]

Effect on Developing Baby

Studies on the impact Adderall and other ADHD medications have on the fetus are limited. However, some research has pointed to an increased risk for certain congenital malformations, including [4]

  • Gastroschisis: a hole in the abdominal wall causing the intestines to be outside the body.
  • Omphalocele: a defect in the abdominal wall where the intestines or organs are outside the body, usually through the belly button
  • Transverse limb deficiency: a missing arm, leg, or digits that appear as if amputated.
  • Congenital heart defects.

Other studies point to amphetamines altering the neural synapse of the fetus, resulting in changes in neural development and growth during childhood. [5]

Women who use amphetamines (including Adderall) during their pregnancy are at a higher risk for their babies to experience premature birth, low birth weight, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon birth.[6]  Low birth weight and premature birth are common effects observed in babies whose mothers took amphetamines during their pregnancy. [7]

Adderall Side Effects

Adderall has some common and more severe side effects that can have more severe consequences if they are experienced while pregnant. Some common side effects include loss of appetite and weight loss, which can be undesirable during pregnancy when eating a balanced diet and gaining weight are important for healthy fetal development. [8]  It can also cause mood changes, increased heart rate, dizziness, and insomnia, all of which can exacerbate normal pregnancy difficulties.

Less common but more serious Adderall side effects have the potential to cause serious health concerns for the mother and fetus.[9] These can include heart attack, stroke, seizures, and psychosis.

Medical Recommendations for Using Adderall During Pregnancy?

What medical guidance and recommendations should expectant mothers follow when dealing with the use of Adderall during pregnancy?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists Adderall as a pregnancy category C.[10] This means that risk can not be ruled out. Animal studies have shown negative effects on the fetus, and there are no adequate and well-controlled human studies. However, for some, the benefits may outweigh the risks.

Based on this, doctors and patients must work closely together to weigh the risks and benefits and determine the best treatment decisions to manage ADHD symptoms while pregnant with or without medication.

Weighing Risks and Benefits of Adderall Use During Pregnancy

Risks and Benefits of Adderall During Pregnancy

Adderall and other stimulant medications are important for many women to be able to complete their daily responsibilities at school, work, and home. Those with more severe symptoms of ADHD who rely heavily on their Adderall to successfully maintain their daily functioning will have to weigh the risks and benefits.

The risk of potentially exposing their fetus to unknown developmental risks must be weighed against the potential financial, medical, and other risks to the mother and baby that can arise from discontinuing Adderall during pregnancy. The consequences of the mother not continuing medication during pregnancy could result in her inability to maintain her job or unsafe driving due to her ADHD symptoms not being managed by medication.

Pregnancy Safe Alternatives

Should you decide that the risks outweigh the benefits of taking Adderall, some alternatives help manage ADHD symptoms without medications. Physical activity and exercise help manage ADHD symptoms, even for those who are not pregnant. Mindfulness and meditation are also helpful in staying in the moment and helping to focus. Both of these have the added benefit of supporting pregnancy health as well.

Increase Awareness About Adderall and Pregnancy

Adderall is a common medication used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. If you take Adderall and are considering becoming pregnant, you should be aware of the potential side effects and risks to yourself and your baby.

Discuss the risks and benefits of taking Adderal while pregnant with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment for your ADHD while pregnant.

If you’re struggling with Adderall abuse or a substance use disorder, reach out to Ascendant NY for specialized help and support.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I breastfeed while taking Adderall?

Breastfeeding is not recommended without consulting a healthcare provider, as Adderall is excreted into breast milk. Research is limited on the impact Adderall in breast milk has on the baby’s long-term neurodevelopment. For mothers who are struggling with milk production, it appears that Adderall may further reduce milk production for some breastfeeding mothers. [11]

Can I use Adderall to lose pregnancy weight?

One of Adderall’s side effects for some people is weight loss due to its two common side effects: suppressing appetite and increasing how quickly you burn calories. This has led to some people misusing Adderall for weight loss. The FDA has not approved Adderall as a weight loss medication. It should not be used to lose pregnancy weight.

When should I talk to my doctor about taking Adderall while pregnant?

Ideally, you will talk to your healthcare providers before becoming pregnant. This isn’t always realistic, as many pregnancies are unplanned. It is essential to seek medical guidance as soon as you believe you are pregnant. This way, you and your healthcare team can determine what is best for you and your baby.

Can you overdose on Adderall?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on Adderall. Symptoms of an Adderall overdose include:[12]

  • agitation, confusion
  • blurred vision, temporary blindness
  • trouble breathing, change in consciousness, loss of consciousness
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • dark urine, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting
  • dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness
  • Fast or slow heartbeat, pounding or irregular heartbeat or pulse, heart palpitations
  • Fever, shivering, sweating
  • headache, inability to speak, slurred speech
  • muscle cramps, spasms, pain, or stiffness
  • overactive reflexes
  • pain or discomfort in the arms, jaw, back, or neck, or weakness in an arm or leg on one side of the body
  • pale, clammy skin
  • pounding in the ears
  • seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there, nervousness
  • trembling, shaking, seizures
  • talking or acting with uncontrollable excitement
  • unusual tiredness or weakness

If you or a loved one experiences any of the above overdose symptoms, seek immediate emergency medical attention.

To reduce the risk of accidental overdoses, all medications should be stored safely and securely where no one else can have access to them besides the person they were prescribed to. They should be kept out of reach of children. Just one dose taken improperly can cause death.

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[1] Martin, D., Le, J.K. (2023) Amphetamine. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556103/ on May 20, 2024.

[2,3,5,7 ] Bang Madsen, K., Robakis, T. K., Liu, X., Momen, N., Larsson, H., Dreier, J. W., Kildegaard, H., Groth, J. B., Newcorn, J. H., Hove Thomsen, P., & Bergink, V. (2023). In utero exposure to ADHD medication and long-term offspring outcomes. Molecular Psychiatry, 28(4), 1739-1746. Retrieved from https://gwern.net/doc/psychiatry/adhd/2023-madsen.pdf

[4] Anderson, K. N., Dutton, A. C., Broussard, C. S., Farr, S. L., Lind, J. N., Visser, S. N., Ailes, E. C., Shapira, S. K., Reefhuis, J., & Tinker, S. C. (2020). ADHD Medication Use During Pregnancy and Risk for Selected Birth Defects: National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1998-2011. Journal of Attention Disorders, 24(3), 479-489. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054718759753 on May 20, 2024

[6,10,11] Drugs.com (2023, Sept. 13) Amphetamine / dextroamphetamine Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warnings. Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/pregnancy/amphetamine-dextroamphetamine.html on May 20, 2024.

[8,9] Drugs.com. (2023, August 23). Adderall: Uses, dosage, side effects & warnings. Drugs.com. Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/adderall.html on May 20, 2024.

[12] Mayo Clinic (2024) Dextroamphetamine And Amphetamine (Oral Route). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/dextroamphetamine-and-amphetamine-oral-route/precautions/drg-20071758 on on May 20, 2024.