The Effects of Drugs used for the Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) on Pregnancy Outcome and Breast-feeding: A Critical Review

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2021;19(11):1794-1804. doi: 10.2174/1570159X18666201127164000.


Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral condition found in 5-10% of school-age children and in 2-5% of adults. Stimulants affecting the dopaminergic, noradrenergic and/or serotonergic systems are commonly used for treatment in children and adults, including women of childbearing age. The data on the effects of stimulants (methylphenidate and amphetamines) in pregnancy are generally reassuring, but methylphenidate might slightly increase the rate of cardiac malformations and of spontaneous abortions, while amphetamines might slightly increase the risk for premature birth, low birth weight and other pregnancy complications. Bupropion, a dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, when used as an antidepressant, appears to be safe in pregnancy. The data on the use of atomoxetine, guanfacine and clonidine in pregnancy are scarce. Importantly, there are practically no data on the long-term neurodevelopmental effects of most of these drugs. The published data on the development of children born to methamphetamineabusing women may be misleading since these women generally use other drugs, including alcohol, and the home environment where the child is raised may not be optimal. The treating physician should judge the need for treatment during pregnancy in relation to the severity of the clinical symptoms. If needed, methylphenidate is preferred over amphetamines because breast feeding is possible. If one uses non-stimulant medications, bupropion seems to be the preferred drug.

Keywords: ADHD; complications of pregnancy; drugs; lactation.; nonstimulant drugs; pregnancy outcome; stimulants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / drug therapy
  • Breast Feeding
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants* / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Methylphenidate* / therapeutic use
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Methylphenidate