Date: January 2023, Version 4

Quick read

Methylphenidate is occasionally used in pregnancy if it is needed to manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy.

What is it?

Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Affenid XL®, Concerta XL®, Delmosart®, Equasym XL®, Matoride XL®, Medikinet XL®, Metyrol XL®, Tranquilyn®, Xaggitin XL®, Xenidate XL®) is used treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and occasionally narcolepsy.


What are the benefits of using methylphenidate in pregnancy?

Methylphenidate can reduce some features of ADHD and improve concentration and function. This can help with work, activities of daily living, and overall quality of life.

Narcolepsy is a potentially dangerous condition as it causes a person to suddenly fall asleep. Effective treatment is therefore important for the wellbeing of a pregnant woman and her baby.


What are the risks of using methylphenidate in pregnancy?

Some studies have suggested that there is an increased chance of miscarriage and some types of heart defect in the baby following use of methylphenidate in early pregnancy. Overall, it is very clear that most babies exposed to methylphenidate in the womb do not have a birth defect. It is also uncertain if these problems are due to methylphenidate itself, or to underlying factors that are more common in women taking methylphenidate.

Methylphenidate and similar drugs have been linked to reduced growth of the baby in the womb. This is thought to be because they can affect blood flow through the placenta.

Methylphenidate can potentially cause short-term withdrawal symptoms in the newborn baby if taken in the weeks before delivery. For this reason, a baby may be monitored for some time after birth to check for symptoms such as jitteriness, difficulty sleeping and breathing problems.


Are there any alternatives to using methylphenidate in pregnancy?

Possibly. Some people are able to manage their ADHD without medicines but this is not right for everyone. Different medicines can be used to treat some specific features of ADHD, such as anxiety, so switching may be an option.

There are also other potential treatments for narcolepsy.

However, if a woman’s condition is well-controlled with methylphenidate, it may be best to stay on it rather than change and risk a relapse. Ideally, a woman planning a pregnancy should speak to her GP or specialist to determine whether methylphenidate is still the best option. Similarly, women who have an unplanned pregnancy while taking methylphenidate should be reviewed at the earliest opportunity by their GP or specialist.

No treatment

What if I prefer not to take medicines during pregnancy?

For some women it might be possible to avoid use of ADHD medicines in pregnancy. Others may need to continue taking their drugs to ensure they remain well and can carry out activities of daily living.

Women with narcolepsy may need to continue methylphenidate treatment to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Doctors will only prescribe medicines when absolutely necessary and will be happy to discuss any concerns.

Pregnant women should not stop or reduce the dose of methylphenidate unless this has been advised by their GP or specialist.

Will I or my baby need extra monitoring?

All pregnant women in the UK will be offered a very detailed anomaly scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy as part of their routine antenatal care. No extra monitoring for major birth defects is required following methylphenidate use in pregnancy. Extra growth scans might be offered to women taking methylphenidate in later pregnancy as it has been linked to having a smaller baby.

Are there any risks to my baby if the father has taken methylphenidate?

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

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

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

How can I help to improve drug safety information for pregnant women in the future?

Our online reporting system (MyBump Portal) allows women who are currently pregnant to create a secure record of their pregnancy, collected through a series of questionnaires. You will be asked to enter information about your health, whether or not you take any medicines, your pregnancy outcome and your child's development. You can update your details at any time during pregnancy or afterwards. This information will help us better understand how medicines affect the health of pregnant women and their babies. Please visit the MyBump Portal to register.

General information
Sadly, miscarriage and birth defects can occur in any pregnancy.

Miscarriage occurs in about 1 in every 5 pregnancies, and 1 in every 40 babies are born with a birth defect. This is called the ‘background risk’ and happens whether medication is taken or not.

Most medicines cross the placenta and reach the baby. For many medications this is not a problem. However, some medicines can affect a baby’s growth and development.

If you take regular medication and are planning to conceive, you should discuss whether your medicine is safe to continue with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant. If you have an unplanned pregnancy while taking a medicine, you should tell your doctor as soon as possible.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please make sure that the person prescribing it knows that you are pregnant. If you have any concerns about a medicine, you can check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist.

Our Bumps information leaflets provide information about the effects of medicines in pregnancy so that you can decide, together with your healthcare provider, what is best for you and your baby.