A recent study suggested that pregnant women who take certain drugs for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to have babies with heart deformities and other birth defects.

In the study, published in December in the Journal of American Medicine Psychiatry, researchers analyzed data on more than 1.8 million pregnancies in the United States, including 2,072 women who took methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana) and 5,571 who took an amphetamine (Adderall) during their first trimester.

All of the women whose pregnancy data was examined for the study had health insurance through Medicaid, the U.S. medical benefits program for the poor.

The analysis revealed that women who took methylphenidate were 11 percent more likely to have a baby with birth defects and 28 percent more likely to have infants with heart malformations than those who did not take drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta and Daytrana during the early months pregnancy.

Conversely, no increased risk of general birth defects or heart malformations were seen in babies who were given birth by women who took amphetamines such as Adderall during their first trimester.

According to lead study author Krista Huybrechts of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, “Our findings suggest that there might be a small increase in the risk of cardiac malformations associated with intrauterine exposure to methylphenidate.”

In a statement emailed to Reuters, Huybrechts warned that, although the absolute risk is small, “it is nevertheless important evidence to consider when weighing the potential risks and benefits of different treatment strategies for ADHD in young women of reproductive age and in pregnant women.”

Huybrechts advised women who are trying to conceive to consider going off of ADHD medications.

“Considering the high rate of unplanned pregnancies among young women, the potential for accidental exposure is also very high,” Huybrechts said.


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