Many women take prescription medication during pregnancy to treat ongoing health conditions. While many are safe, others carry a risk of harming an unborn baby or causing birth defects. Is Vyvanse during pregnancy safe?
Research shows that more women are taking medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Vyvanse, while pregnant. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about 1 in 100 pregnant women take these medications, a number that’s doubled over a 13-year period.
Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) is a prescription medication used to treat ADHD in adults and children older than 6. It’s also the first prescription medication approved by the FDA to treat binge-eating disorders. Vyvanse stimulates the central nervous system and affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that lead to hyperactivity and lack of impulse control.
Should women stop taking Vyvanse during pregnancy?
There’s not a definitive yes or no answer whether women should cease taking Vyvanse during pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies medications by their risk to an unborn baby or one who is breastfeeding. Some are classified as safe, while others pose a serious risk. The FDA says studies of Vyvanse in animals show possible negative effects, but human studies on the risk of things like birth defects and miscarriage are limited.
There are two classes of ADHD medications: methylphenidate, which includes ADHD drugs like Ritalin, and amphetamines like Vyvanse and Adderall. Researchers have not widely studied either class’s safety during pregnancy but have gathered some data to learn about any side effects.
Researchers have linked medications in the methylphenidate class to heart abnormalities in babies. “The data we have on amphetamine medications such as Vyvanse is, we believe it’s safe,” explains Navid Mootabar, MD, Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Northern Westchester Hospital. “However, we encourage patients to have conversations with their doctors about the risks versus benefits.”
The CDC study shows that there is a very low risk that taking an ADHD medication during early pregnancy raises a woman’s chance of having a baby with certain birth defects of the abdominal wall and limbs. The study was small, and scientists acknowledge the need to do more research. Besides birth defects, there’s a chance Vyvanse could also cause premature birth, low birth weight, lower Apgar scores, and withdrawal symptoms.
Because of the limited data, there’s no standard dosage of Vyvanse that’s considered safe for pregnant women. If an ADHD medication’s risks outweigh its benefits, experts recommend patients either stop taking it for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or take a different drug. “We also look for non-pharmacologic treatments for ADHD like cognitive behavioral therapy, diet, and exercise,” Dr. Mootabar says.
Is Vyvanse safe to take while breastfeeding?
“It does cross over through breast milk,” says Danielle Plummer, Pharm.D., founder of HG Pharmacist. “The baby is then potentially going to go through withdrawal when you wean them from nursing.”
Caregivers should carefully watch babies born to or breastfed by mothers taking Vyvanse for withdrawal symptoms like trouble feeding, irritability, distress, and extreme drowsiness. Some experts recommend that women avoid breastfeeding while using this medication.
The bottom line: Is Vyvanse safe during pregnancy?
It can be a difficult decision about whether or not to take Vyvanse or other prescription medications during pregnancy. When it comes to Vyvanse and other ADHD drugs: “If the mom needs this med and will have a good quality of life and a healthy pregnancy, then she’s better off continuing to take it,” Dr. Plummer advises. “But if she doesn’t need to be on it, then she shouldn’t take it.”
Pregnant women and those thinking about having a baby should talk to the healthcare provider who prescribed Vyvanse and their OB-GYN or midwife before starting or stopping the medication—including a plan to best manage their ADHD symptoms.