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Date of issue: November 2023, Version: 4.1

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A corresponding patient information leaflet on USE OF METHYLPHENIDATE IN PREGNANCY is available.

Summary: Methylphenidate is a central nervous system stimulant used in the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used off-license in the treatment of narcolepsy.

The data regarding therapeutic use of methylphenidate do not suggest a significant increase in overall congenital malformation rates. There may be a non-causal association between methylphenidate use in pregnancy and fetal cardiac malformation. Two studies which utilised an overlapping dataset have described increased risks of some specific cardiac defects (conotruncal and major arch anomalies in one and ventricular septal defects (VSD) in the other). However, the data regarding VSD risks were conflicting between the two studies, the risk estimates were imprecise, and the findings may have been produced through statistical chance. Methylphenidate use in early pregnancy should be considered a prognostic risk factor for fetal cardiac malformation, and a fetal echocardiogram could be considered at 18 to 22 weeks gestational age.

Up to two-fold increased risks of miscarriage with methylphenidate use in early pregnancy and low Apgar score with use in later pregnancy have also been identified. Rates of intrauterine death, small for gestational age or preterm delivery have not been shown to be increased following pregnancy exposure; however, the data are too limited to exclude increased risks. As with other CNS-acting drugs, neonatal withdrawal symptoms may be expected following the use of methylphenidate during pregnancy. A single study investigating the long-term effects of antenatal ADHD medication exposure (mainly exposed to methylphenidate) did not indicate associations with increased risks of neurodevelopmental impairments.

Growth restriction and preterm delivery have been reported following abuse of methylphenidate in pregnancy. However, the data are too limited to confirm an association and concurrent risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes were present in most cases.

It is important that maternal ADHD is adequately controlled during pregnancy. The risks of destabilisation and maternal relapse must be taken into account when considering dose reduction or switching a patient from methylphenidate to another medication(s).

Exposure to methylphenidate at any stage of pregnancy would not usually be regarded as medical grounds for termination of pregnancy. However, other risk factors which independently increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcome may be present in individual cases. Clinicians are reminded of the importance of consideration of such factors when performing case-specific risk assessments.

This is a summary of the full UKTIS monograph for health care professionals and should not be used in isolation. The full UKTIS monograph and access to any hyperlinked related documents is available to NHS health care professionals who are logged in.

If you have a patient with exposure to a drug or chemical and require assistance in making a patient-specific risk assessment, please telephone UKTIS on 0344 892 0909 to discuss the case with a teratology specialist.

If you would like to report a pregnancy to UKTIS please click here to download our pregnancy reporting form. Please encourage all women to complete an online reporting form.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that this monograph was accurate and up-to-date at the time of writing, however it cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes of the measures recommended. The final decision regarding which treatment is used for an individual patient remains the clinical responsibility of the prescriber. This material may be freely reproduced for education and not for profit purposes within the UK National Health Service, however no linking to this website or reproduction by or for commercial organisations is permitted without the express written permission of this service. This document is regularly reviewed and updated. Only use UKTIS monographs downloaded directly from to ensure you are using the most up-to-date version.