Children who were exposed to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications their moms took during pregnancy are not more prone to neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD or autism, researchers report.
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.