photo 1I gave birth to my daughter, Tigerlily, about 15 months ago. In preparation for my pregnancy (and under my doctor’s care), I took myself off Concerta (which I was taking to help manage ADHD) about a year before getting pregnant. Since giving birth, I’ve had a number of readers inquire about my experience and ask just how I managed to manage my ADHD without medication! I’ve written about this topic before, but I think that now might be a good time to tell an updated version of my story.

First and foremost, my daughter (seen over there on the left) was well worth any difficulty I had being off medication, being pregnant, and going through an incredibly difficult labor. Doctors agree that the psychostimulants used to treat ADHD should not be used by pregnant and nursing mothers. The science just isn’t there to say it’s harmless so, for me, there was no question that I would be stopping the meds.

And let me just say that it’s absolutely possible to live successfully without medication. (See Rob Hanly’s posts.) Lots of people do it. However, there are also lots of people who would never want to be without medication, because the help that it provides is just priceless. I fall somewhere in the middle.

I was diagnosed with ADHD in my mid-20s. I resisted medication at first before eventually “caving in” and trying it. It took quite a long time for me to find the medication that worked well for me but, once I did, the difference was astounding. Life became much easier. I was able to focus and block out distractions for longer periods of time, I had an easier time transitioning from task to task, and I was able to slow down long enough to plan my day, among other things.

However, there’s a popular saying among ADHD coaches like myself: “Pills don’t build skills.” Medication is not a magic bullet that will change everything. In my case, and in many other cases, medication acted like a set of training wheels on a bicycle. My medication gave me the added support that I needed when I was first learning about my ADHD and building my ADHD management skills.

In addition to taking medication at the time, I was in therapy to better understand myself and to increase my personal awareness. After being in therapy for many years, I sought out support groups to learn all that I could about my ADHD. I also did a lot of research and read a ton of books. When I found out about ADHD coaching, I decided to work with a coach. And when I felt like I really had my stuff together, I began training to become a coach myself.

I worked hard to build my ADHD management skills, and I’ve been supporting other adults in doing the same for about 10 years now. So it really wasn’t such a big deal when I stopped taking ADHD medication. I rely on the “5 Essential Skills for Managing Adult ADD” that I discuss in my book, Odd One Out: The Maverick’s Guide to Adult ADD. Practicing those skills on a daily basis is one of my highest priorities.

Sure, some days were harder than others. But that’s just the way it goes with pregnancy, anyway. Some days you feel great and get a lot done. Other days you just need to sleep as much as you possibly can, and not worry about being productive. During every trimester of pregnancy, you really need to take it easy on yourself and greatly lower the expectation of what you can comfortably accomplish in a day.

After pregnancy, I breast fed my daughter for about a year. And for the first nine months of that, all was pretty good. The flow of happy hormones through my body had me in a great mood most of the time. And even if new motherhood was tough and a lot of things weren’t getting done, it was okay, because those hormones kept me feeling relatively stress-free.

By the end of that year, though, I was really ready to get back to my “normal life.” Don’t get me wrong, I have loved being a mother from the very first minute. But there did come a time when I was longing for structure that was set largely by me, and not by an infant’s hunger schedule. But by the time I found myself in that place, I also found myself without all those happy hormones to keep my stress-free. I knew that I would need to go back on the meds. And I was totally fine with that.

As Dr. Theresa Cerulli said in last year’s AD/HD Medication Matters Summit, “it’s not all or nothing with ADHD psychostimulants. You can be on them when you need them, and off them when you don’t.” Now happens to be one of those times when I need them. I have a new life, a new schedule, new routines, and new structure. And until I adjust to all that, I have no problem using Concerta as a set of training wheels, once again.

But whether I do or don’t take medication to help manage my ADHD, one thing always remains the same: pills really don’t build skills. No matter where I am in my life, the ADHD management skills that I’ve worked hard to build play a crucial role in my success, and my happiness.

Do you take medication for your AD/HD? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments!

And if you’re not quite at a point in your life where you’re ready to go without medication, or if you’re just beginning to think about taking AD/HD medication, then you may be interested in joining us for the AD/HD Medication Matters Online Summit.

The AD/HD Medication Matters Summit is a live, online event that is designed to help you cut through the confusion and get the facts about AD/HD and medication. We ran this event last year and we were so pleasantly surprised when the event was attended by four times the amount of people we expected!

Prominent neuropsychiatrist Theresa Cerulli, MD will be joining me in this online summit May 15 & 16 to teach you everything you need to know about AD/HD and medications. Learn more here. And don’t forget to register by April 30 to save 39% off the registration fee and pay just $77 to attend!

 


Jennifer Koretsky About Jennifer Koretsky

Jennifer Koretsky, SCAC is the Managing Partner of the ADD Management Group, LLC and Chief Executive Officer of ADHDmanagement.com. She is a Senior Certified ADHD Coach, and the author of Odd One Out: The Maverick's Guide to Adult ADD.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Lawrence says:

    I have two children, one 10 and one 2 year old. I was on IR Adderall before my first child and stopped for a few years and began the meds again when I went back to school. I eventually switched to the XR and had been on it for almost 2 years when my husband andd I received the surprise newsI was pregnant. I had to switch back to IR adderall because of the withdrawal symptoms of trying to stop taking the meds .cold turkey and didn’t begin taking the medicine again until I returned to work bc I breastfed until the baby was about 15 months old. Ever since I started taking the adderall again, it doesn’t seem to work the same as before the pregnancy. The drs have had me experiment with all sorts of meds, but adderall is still the best action for me but not nearly as effective as before the pregnancy. I asked the Doctor about it and she didn’t have a good answer. Has anyone else had this happen? My ADD is worse than ever now. It’s been a hard 2 years.

    • Jennifer Koretsky Jennifer Koretsky says:

      Hi Jennifer, I would definitely talk to your OB! It may be that your hormones are out of whack after having the baby. And hormones and neurotransmitters definitely affect each another. Good luck!

  2. Hello, I am 26 years old and I have ADHD, I take concerta since I was 18 years old. I finished university and started working full time. I’m now considering the idea of having a child, but the fact that I would have to quite the medication is really scary for me, especially that I don’t have energy and motivation without my medication. I am really afraid that it would make a negative impact on my work, and I just started working so I don’t want my employer to think that I’m not good enough… Is there some tricks or natural stuff that I could try to managed my disability? that I could try before getting pregnant.
    Thanks a lot. :)

  3. My name is Lisa. I am 37 and just got DX that I am ADHD, after being referred to a counceling program at work because I almost lost my job. I been on adderall for 3 months 20mg a day. I love the benefits! I recently found out I am pregnant. I believe I am 6-7 weeks. I am trying to find natural alternatives. I am not taking anything and I am already hating it. Also, what can I do to raise my dophine levels so that I am not inclined to eat more? Im so confused as what to do.

  4. Incredibly motivating post! Thank for sharing it! It really gives hope that we can stop taking the meds for a while and still survive. Besides stopping taking the medication when you were pregnant, did you take any natural remedies? Did you do something about your nutrition to help handle ADHD without meds? I wonder if it possible to just stop or is it necessary to substitute it with something else.

  5. Emma Berger says:

    Oh my goodness… I can’t believe I stumbled on this page. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was six and put right on Adderall. It works so beautifully for me. It got me through highschool, college like a dream. After college, I became a teacher and started getting a lot of anxiety about starting a family and getting off medications. So I started experimenting with my doses. I cut it in half, then THAT in half, sometimes I wouldn’t take it at all… I just wanted to try and see if I could force myself to be “normal” if I had to. I was trying to build these very skills that you all talk about.

    Well let me tell you, experimentation with medication and teaching KINDERGARTEN AND FIRST GRADE do not mix well (think 24 kids all talking AT you at the same time and understanding 10% of it)!! I gained weight. I hated my job, I got bad reviews, I was a MEAN teacher because I couldn’t cope! This year, I am back in first grade again, but this time I am taking the full 20MG as prescribed. It is so wonderful. There are still days when I have a hard time focusing, and somethings (like all the constant chatter) I will never get used to… But all in all, things are much better.

    That being said, there is no way that I can teach for 9+ months while pregnant. There is NO WAY. And a room of 6 and 7 year olds is kind of a nightmare for even the most patient of “normal” people. I need to find a new job/career before I literally hit the looney bin. Wish I could afford an ADHD coach…

  6. I have been off ADHD meds since May of 2013 in preparation to become pregnant. It has now been 6 months since we started trying, and I’m really missing my meds. I am back in school with 3 classes, the most I’ve had in a while. I’m also trying to find a part-time job. I feel like I need my meds because I don’t grasp concepts as easily as I did before. I’m missing things in class because of my attention, and I also feel like I’m saying the wrong things, or not knowing what to say, in job interviews. If I were younger I would just go on meds and put off baby making, but I’m 36 going on 37. I worry that if I do get a job, it will be very difficult or that I might not be able to keep it. I worry that I’m going to wreck my 4.0 GPA that I’ve worked so hard for. It’s such an accomplishment for me since I’ve always had trouble focusing in class. Are there any ADHD coaches that take insurance???

  7. I was first diagnosed with ADD after I had my first child about 3yrs ago. I had a very difficult delivery and, what I thought at the time, post partum depression. I was so overwhelmed with my new roll as a mother and home maker. Was I depressed? Sure, some times but it was more the intolerance to more than one thing happening at once to me. And as all mothers know, there are a million things happening at once with a new baby. I was diagnosed when I was still breastfeeding so didn’t start on any meds until she was about a year old and when I decided I would stop. After I got on the meds I couldn’t believe how it changed my life. I was always a pretty shy person, mainly because I was embarrassed that I couldn’t follow conversations very well, finish any books or even if I did couldn’t remember it enough to have an intelligent conversation about it with anyone, or even follow a fast moving movie. Since being on the meds I have a completely different social life and I am able to enjoy managing time between my daughter and the “must do’s” of running a house and working. I just found out I am pregnant again, about 5wks, and I have since gotten off my medication. I am having a very difficult time even tolerating my 3yr old, much less able to effectively do my job, or get anything done at home. I am yelling at my kido a lot more and I am usually an extremely patient and loving/cuddly mother. I am just so overwhelmed with basic day to day stuff. I can’t imagine being like this for another year or so. I just don’t know what to do…

  8. My story is a little different. I don’t ave ADHD,but I take concerta to help me with clear thinking and concentrating. Back in 2009 I had a bad car accident where I suffered from Brain Injury. I first started on Ritalin to help me think straight then switched to concerta. I can’t go a work day with out taking my medication to think straight for work. Now I think I am pregnat and I know my doctor will not keep me on this medication while pregnant. What should I do? If i continue to take the medication will I cause major defect on my child? I work in a hospital where my work extreamly counts, but at the same time i am 22 years old and want to start my family. Any advice on what should I do?

  9. I’m in the opposite boat. I was denied meds as a kid, despite clearly having ADHD, because I would hyperfocus on puzzles and books. Back then, they thought that meant you didn’t actually have ADD. I finally got put on meds briefly about 5 years ago, but went back off because of pregnancy/breastfeeding. Now, I just went back on. I’m 31, I’ve clearly got the ability to get by without the meds, but I feel as though the older I get, the more trouble I have managing day to day. I was starting to get depressed because I felt like something was wrong with me, like my brain was slipping away. I’m happy to see that with the meds, my brain is still there ;)

    I do want one more child, so I will likely go back off of the meds at some point, but for the time being I’m enjoying feeling like a normal human being.

  10. Sorry for being late in the conversation but I wanted to just say that this is the first thing I have ever read about ADD and pregnancy or trying to get pregnant. I am 26 and have been on ADD meds for at least 17 years of my life. My husband and I want to start a family and I have been having a hard time. A year and a half ago I stopped taking meds after a year back on them and my life was sent into a tail spin, my biggest issue is that my ADD is very mood and emotional and the meds help me feel normal. My job life suffers so much when Im off meds. I had to change jobs and when I did I started my meds again, found a great ADD only doctor who helped me so much and now everything is so great except for us wanting children. I have decided to stay on the meds while trying to get pregnant. My doctor wants me to be aware of my cycle and make sure to test and stop taking them when I find out Im actually pregnant.

    I was very torn up thinking that either I can lead a normal life and pay my bills and be childless or I lose my job and be a mother the thing I dream of most.

    Are there any other resources out there for me??

  11. virginnia says:

    first off…my name has 2-n’s and I believe thats why I have aDD (lol). I can’t get through to my doctor that at 66years old I need to know and be treated that I am definitely ADD. Have been since childhood. My dad was. My son is (48 y.o.)too. He also has been one since childhood. what do you recommend I say to him?? what I said before was “I think I have ADD AND WANT TO BE TESTED AND GET MEDS TO REGULATE ME and get better. I have fibromyalgia and attendant to that many other ailments which I’ll tell you if needed. I’m also taking several strong meds.
    Please tell me what to say to get through to doctor (he is internal medicine) but I also see a neurologist (every 3 months) and I have next appointment in August. I have only seen neurologist twice so he is new to me. Also might he be more receptive to my request because of the specialty he is in??? Thanks for any help you can send my way. I just discovered your website today by surfing makeup storage items

  12. Jennifer Koretsky Jennifer Koretsky says:

    Wow, what great discussions going on here! Thanks so much to everyone who has added their voice and experience. The more we all talk about these things (meds, especially) the less of a stigma there is. :-)

  13. Thanks Jodi, I’m going to push for some more information and options with my Dr because I really think at this stage of my life (3 kids and a full time business) I really need some help. I’m also exploring another round of Biofeedback (neuro-therapy) apparently there are some rebates with Medicare these days which I am pleasantly surprised about.

    • No problem Tiff. I think it is quite difficult to find good psychiatrists who treat adult ADD in some parts of Australia. And because stimulants are restricted they can only be prescribed by psychiatrists and in most states you need two independent diagnoses to remain on them for more than a short time. But in my experience it could be worth persevering particularly if you haven’t even had the option of trying the different medications available before. Personally I don’t feel like it’s exaggerating to say that being diagnosed and going on medication saved my life from imploding and I wish I’d had it earlier!

  14. I do not take meds for my ADD because truly there is not ONE medication I respond to. Statistics say 97% of ppl with ADD find a medication that is helpful to them and makes life be just a bit more manageable. I, (lucky me) happen to be in the 3% of ppl for whom meds don’t work. My psychiatrist is a specialist in adult ADD and only sees ADD adults. We worked together for months when I first started seeing him to find a medication. None of the psychostimulants had any effect on me, and we even tried skin patches in case the medicine was not being absorbed correctly. We tried drugs used off label, and as a last ditch effort, an MAOI, which i didn’t like because of the dietary restrictions. However, desperate to find something that would work, I would have stayed on the MAOI had it helped at all. I talk to many ppl who tell me how their ADD meds help them, and I am envious. How I long to be able to filter out audio and visual distractions, even briefly, and to be able to focus and concentrate for more than a short time. True, pills are not skills, but I just wish there was a medication that worked for me to help level the playing field a bit.

    • Kay Ortiz says:

      Allison, My heart goes out to you. I didn’t know I had ADHD until I almost had a nervous breakdown in January 2012. My doc put me on an anti-depressant, which helped, and then a psychiatrist diagnosed the ADHD. I was put on Ritalin, which seems to help, so I understand the frustration you must be going through without meds. What has helped me is to meditate. You must be laughing, thinking, “A person with ADHD meditate? How is it possible????” Try this simple trick. Focus on a bright object, then close your eyes. The bright object with remain in your “view.” Keep your focus on the object, keep focusing on being able to see the object. If you can do this technique for even one minute you will be on your way to being better focused and have less anxiety. Add time to the meditation. Some days I can meditate for 15 or 20 minutes; other days, only a minute or two. Try it.

      I hear bio-feedback works. I may give this a try in the near future.

      Good luck!

      Kay

  15. I am also in Australia and not diagnosed until 31 when I was really struggling with my attention differential difficulties as my Dr called them. I was prescribed a short acting stimulant medication that my Dr also explained that I could take when I needed to and not when I didn’t. When I first started on the medication it felt like a miricle, I felt like what I suspected other ‘normal’ people felt like all the time. This helped me through a very difficult time in my life but a bit over two years later I would agree that despite the initial miraculous feelings, to successfully manage my ADD, I needed to build other important skills.
    I have done this over time and also found that my medication helps me cope well enough to practice these skills and establish them in my life. Knowing more about myself helps too, just knowing that it wasn’t a lack of discipline or willpower, and how to take care of myself a bit better has made a big difference.
    I still use my medication because I find it helps me to keep in place the non medication practices and strategies that help with ADD management. Managing without medication would be much harder and the risk of major lapses higher. For lots of reasons including my career, I do not want to risk the impact that a major ‘lapse’ would have on my life.
    Everyone is different but I experience very few negative side effects from my medication and in adults there appear to be few known harms from long term use so the risk/benefit profile for me personally means I’m relatively comfortable remaining on my medication for the foreseeable future. Of course that could change if I entered a different stage of my life like wanting to start a family like Jennifer.
    The attitude to ADD medications from some people can really make me angry though and while I understand the concerns for children (and won’t get into those issues here) I think it’s completely unwarranted for adults. I think medication is a tool like any other that can help people cope, help them succeed etc. I believe it’s wrong to make people feel ashamed or like they are not good enough if they can’t or don’t want to try to cope or succeed without this ‘tool’. I don’t think it’s helpful to adopt an attitude that some ‘tools’ are morally superior to others. What I wish for everyone with ADD is that they can be supported to learn and try lots of different things that can help them and be supported to make the decisions that are right for them and help them live their own individual version of their best life, whatever that looks like.

  16. I live in Australia and was diagnosed with ADD over 30 years ago, I was 10. Back then they didn’t understand what it was or how to treat it. Over the years I’ve struggled with so many things that are directly associated with ADD, I don’t think I reached my full potential academically and suffered emotionally, low self esteem etc. I am only now realising what I am capable of and my limits.

    I started taking Zoloft after I was diagnosed with severe Depression about 10 years ago after my second child and I felt like it took away any emotion that I had left, in fact I had more side effects caused by the Zoloft than I did without it, particularly anxiety attacks. But it did take the edge off the depression probably because it made me feel emotionless? I stayed on it for over 5 months until I tried a treatment called Bio Feedback. it’s not something you hear about in Australia as a treatment and it’s not offered by doctors or listed in any drug registry or government funding. I was extremely lucky to stumble upon it and as a result I am now about %80 back to normal, if there is a “normal” for ADD sufferers.
    I wonder if it’s different in other countries? but medication for ADD was never offered in all my years, I wish it had been available, maybe life would have been less stressful! Even my 12 year old son diagnosed with Aspergers has never been offered medication.

  17. I am a 55 yr. old woman who started taking ADHD medication after my husband commented on how much we enjoyed our 11 yr. old granddaughter more now that she was on ADHD meds. She sat still at mealtime, was pleasant, polite and still very funny. He explained that the way she drove me crazy before meds was how he felt around me. He highly recommended I get some of that stuff. (By the way, he is a very wonderful man.) So…I got some Adderall and usually take it when I am going to be around my husband all day. I do not have insurance and with the requirement that I see a physician every 3 months in order to be on Adderall, I cannot afford nor do I feel I need to take it everyday. My coworkers like me better off of my meds:)

  18. I used to take Zoloft to help keep the chaos in my head at bay when I was married. I noticed that it seemed to reduce the number of arguments I got into with my now ex-husband. But at some point, I had to stop taking them because I didn’t have the funds. Now that I do, I decided not to go back to taking the meds because the main reason I was taking them … my husband … is no longer in my life. No more arguments … yeah! No need to take meds at the moment. Yes, I get distracted easily, but I seem to be doing OK anyway.

Comments

*