Posted by Claudia Grazioso on August 31, 2011
When Ritalin first was introduced to the marketplace years ago, many people saw it as a blessing. For people tortured by ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or a frustrating inability to maintain focus, it seemed like relief had finally arrived. Prescriptions to Ritalin seemed to become almost commonplace. But if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant and currently take Ritalin, there are some things you should be aware of when deciding whether to continue taking it during your pregnancy.
Ritalin, also known by the generic name methylphenidate hydrochloride, is in a classification known as CNS stimulants. That means that this drug works on your central nervous system to help control symptoms of ADD and ADHD. While no conclusive tests have been done on humans, tests on laboratory animals have provided some unsettling results. Ritalin does appear to cause harm to fetuses, ranging from birth defects to low birth weights. One early study even showed that animal fetuses given high doses of Ritalin were at increased risk for skeletal deformities as serious as spina bifida. Additionally, developmental difficulties that become apparent later in a child’s life have been linked to prenatal exposure to Ritalin. Issues like delays in language, learning disabilities and even, ironically, developmental difficulties similar to ADHD are being investigated as having a link to early exposure to psychostimulants like Ritalin. Infants who have been exposed to Ritalin also have been observed to go through a drug withdrawal phase after birth.
For these reasons, many doctors recommend not taking Ritalin during pregnancy.
As a Category C drug, Ritalin, like many other medications that affect brain chemicals, is in a little bit of a grey area. No conclusive tests have shown that it will definitely harm human fetuses, but there is evidence that it does harm and negatively impact the development of animal fetuses. This pretty much means that you are left to make your own call. If you suffer from ADD or ADHD and find relief with Ritalin, do not simply stop taking it when you become pregnant. First you should talk with your doctor about what the risks to your child are, and make an informed decision about your course of treatment.