Navigating ADHD During Pregnancy

Symptoms, Risks, and the Medication Dilemma

When people talk about pregnancy, they talk about the physical aches and pain, the excitement of bringing a new person into their family, and the infamous pregnancy brain. For every parent or parent-to-be, these topics also come with a healthy dose of anxiety. But for people with ADHD, there’s even more to worry about..

The idea of adjusting your routines to account for an entire other human – when setting and sticking to routine is already a constant struggle - sounds soul-crushingly difficult. And knowing that it might get even harder to focus and remember things can sound like a nightmare. Having ADHD adds a whole other layer of challenge to this exciting time of life, and it’s important for people to understand what to expect so they can successfully plan for what’s coming.

In this article, we’re going to talk about how hormones can impact ADHD, how to manage the extra risks that can come up for both the new mother and new baby, and talk about the meds vs no meds during pregnancy debate. Having this information should give people some idea of what to expect, and help them think about what kind of support they might need throughout their pregnancy adventure.

Hormones and ADHD During Pregnancy

Along with the physical changes that happen during pregnancy, a person also experiences major shifts in their hormones during this time. Hormones have a big impact on how they experience their ADHD, and whether pregnancy turns into an ADHD vacation or spinning teacup ride.

Estrogen and ADHD

For some people, pregnancy actually decreases ADHD symptoms. This is because increased estrogen lessens the effects of symptoms. The person might be able to remember things better, manage daily tasks easier, and feel calmer.

On the other hand, lower levels of estrogen often make symptoms much worse. And since estrogen fluctuates during the first and third trimesters especially, managing ADHD can get a lot harder. A person’s memory might get worse, their moods might seem more unstable, and they might start taking risks they normally wouldn’t.

These changes can be managed if the person has the right support, and if they’re prepared. Working with a professional, like an ADHD coach, can help someone navigate the ups and downs of pregnancy hormones that can otherwise feel out of control.

Risks and Complications for Mothers with ADHD

ADHD comes with some extra pregnancy risks. Some of these are physical but most relate to ADHD symptoms. The physical risks associated with ADHD and pregnancy include iron deficiency and blood pressure management problems, though even these are still being studied. The more pressing concerns are related to the behavioral challenges of ADHD. Memory issues, disorganization, and impulsivity are some of the most notable complications.

  • Memory problems can make it harder to keep track of important medications and harder to schedule and attend appointments, which impacts quality of care.
  • Disorganization makes it really difficult to manage an entire other person after baby comes home, which can lead to overwhelm and worse mental health.
  • Impulsivity might lead the mother to make quick decisions or join activities that create risk, like drinking alcohol or neglecting sleep in order to have alone-time, which creates problems later.

Co-occurring Conditions

Many people experience conditions alongside ADHD that don’t mesh well with pregnancy. Anxiety and depression are two common ones that can have a negative impact during and after pregnancy. They can significantly increase stress, which can be bad for the baby during development, and make the postpartum period difficult by contributing to overwhelm and unstable moods, both of which can make postpartum mental health concerns worse.

Managing risks

These risk factors can be reduced if the pregnant person has enough support to manage their symptoms. This might look like family and friends stepping up to help with housework, scheduling, or childcare. Or the mom-to-be can access ADHD coaching. With a coach, they can develop strategies to manage their symptoms, and regularly talk to someone about their struggles—something many parents don’t get to do enough.

Medicating ADHD During Pregnancy

Thinking about symptom management brings up the question of how to manage ADHD medication during pregnancy. This is one of the most pressing concerns for pregnant people with ADHD. There is not one right answer for everyone. Each individual should read information and talk to their medical team to understand what is best for them.

Cold Turkey is out of Fashion

For a long time, the accepted strategy was to give up medication for the safety of the baby, and to manage ADHD symptoms as best as possible. But new research shows this might not be the best choice. Sometimes it’s best to prioritize mental health and continue ADHD medication. If someone’s ADHD symptoms overwhelm them during and after pregnancy, this creates more short and long-term risks to both mom and baby.

In a recent study, research showed that women who were medicated had better outcomes than women who weren’t. They were better able to care for themselves and cope with the stress of being pregnant. Women who quit their medication during pregnancy experienced a lot of the risk factors mentioned in the last section.

ADHD Coaching During Pregnancy

For people with ADHD, pregnancy is a time of significant adjustment. Hormonal changes can impact symptoms in unpredictable ways. New mothers have to deal with extra risks during pregnancy and higher chances of having mental health challenges after. And the decision of whether to continue taking medication puts a lot of pressure on them and their medical team.

The good news is there is extra support available. Having an ADHD coach on the care team is a great way to support a pregnant mom with ADHD. A coach can help them develop strategies, identify areas of difficulty, and can be another consistent source of emotional support. If you or someone else in your life are expecting, this is a great time to try out the ADHD coaching services we offer through Shimmer Care. Our coaches meet with you individually and help address your most pressing challenges, developing uniquely-tailored strategies and coping skills for each step of your journey. Pregnancy can be really difficult with ADHD, but getting the support from a Shimmer Care coach can make it easier.

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