(Date: January 2021. Version: 1)

This factsheet has been written for members of the public by the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS). UKTIS is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on behalf of UK Health Departments. UKTIS has been providing scientific information to health care providers since 1983 on the effects that medicines, recreational drugs and chemicals may have on the developing baby during pregnancy.

What is it?

Modafinil is prescribed to improve symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and to help with tiredness and fatigue in people with narcolepsy and multiple sclerosis (MS)

What are the benefits of using modafinil in pregnancy?

Modafinil increases alertness and prevents sleep; however, it is not recommended during pregnancy. Women who are taking modafinil and planning a pregnancy should speak to their doctor about changing medication or stopping treatment. Women who conceive whilst taking modafinil should contact their GP or specialist straightaway.

Are there any risks of using modafinil in pregnancy?

Some studies have suggested that pregnant women taking modafinil have a higher chance of having a baby with a birth defect. However, none of the studies included large enough numbers of pregnant women to produce reliable findings. Further research is required before we can say whether modafinil is safe or not. As a precaution, its use in pregnancy is not recommended.

Are there any alternatives to using modafinil in pregnancy?

Possibly. Other medicines can be used to treat ADHD. Alternative measures such as good sleep hygiene can improve tiredness and fatigue. Your doctor will be able to advise you on which of these are best for you.

What if I prefer not to use medicines in pregnancy?

Your doctor will only prescribe medicines when absolutely necessary and will be happy to talk to you about any concerns that you might have.

Will I or my baby need any extra monitoring?

You will be offered a detailed scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy as part of routine antenatal care. If you have taken modafinil in early pregnancy your obstetrician may decide to carry out some extra checks of your baby (such as a more detailed scan of your baby’s heart).

Are there any risks to my baby if the father takes modafinil?

We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father takes modafinil.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions about the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from   

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General information 

Up to 1 out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 1 in 40 babies are born with a birth defect. These are referred to as the background population risks.  They describe the chance of these events happening for any pregnancy before taking factors such as the mother’s health during pregnancy, her lifestyle, medicines she takes and the genetic make up of her and the baby’s father into account.

Medicines use in pregnancy

Most medicines used by the mother will cross the placenta and reach the baby. Sometimes this may have beneficial effects for the baby.  There are, however, some medicines that can harm a baby’s normal development.  How a medicine affects a baby may depend on the stage of pregnancy when the medicine is taken. If you are on regular medication you should discuss these effects with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please ensure the doctor or health care professional treating you is aware of your pregnancy.

When deciding whether or not to use a medicine in pregnancy you need to weigh up how the medicine might improve your and/or your unborn baby’s health against any possible problems that the drug may cause. Our bumps leaflets are written to provide you with a summary of what is known about use of a specific medicine in pregnancy so that you can decide together with your health care provider what is best for you and your baby.   

Every pregnancy is unique. The decision to start, stop, continue or change a prescribed medicine before or during pregnancy should be made in consultation with your health care provider. It is very helpful if you can record all your medication taken in pregnancy in your hand held maternity records.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace the individual care and advice of your health care provider. New information is continually becoming available. Whilst every effort will be made to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date at the time of publication, we cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes following decisions made on the basis of this information. We strongly advise that printouts should NOT be kept for any length of time, or for “future reference” as they can rapidly become out of date.

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