How to Help Manage ADHD during Pregnancy

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neuropsychological disorder. Most are familiar with this disorder occurring in children, but adults and pregnant women can also have ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD are trouble concentrating, paying attention, staying organized and remembering details. Hyperactivity and impulsivity are also very common.

For those who are pregnant and diagnosed with ADHD, things can get complicated quickly. Getting things under control is not easy for the pregnant woman or other family members.

This happens as the front-line medications used to treat ADHD in adults fall under the category C drugs. Due to insufficient research, experts are still not sure whether these medications are safe for pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Risks cannot be taken, as there is uncertainty about the impact on an unborn baby. Nobody wants to cause any harm to the baby growing in the womb.

The ongoing hormonal changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy can cause ADHD symptoms to be more prominent. Also, the stress and anxiety that one may experience during pregnancy can add to the problem.

However, this does not mean that pregnancy and ADHD cannot be handled. There are several lifestyle and behavioral changes that can help keep ADHD symptoms under control and ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Here are some tips to help manage ADHD during pregnancy.

1. Exercise Regularly

Regular physical exercise ensures positive changes in the brain, which in turn can improve attention and improve mood.

A 2012 study published in Current Psychiatry reports that people with ADHD who exercise regularly experience neural growth and development.

Beyond helping with ADHD symptoms, exercise can help you stay at a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy. Gaining excess weight during pregnancy can increase the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and lots more.

Make sure to enjoy walking at least 30 minutes, three times a week. You can always consult your doctor to learn about other types of exercises you can do safely during your pregnancy, depending upon your health status.

2. Do Yoga

Practicing yoga while pregnant is one of the best ways to keep your body feeling good and your mind in balance. It is also good at keeping ADHD symptoms under control.

The combination of physical postures, breathing exercises and deep relaxation techniques used in yoga help calm and strengthen the central nervous system, which in turn helps manage ADHD symptoms.

On top of that, yoga can be very beneficial during pregnancy, as long as you take certain precautions. However, don’t do any yoga poses that put stress on your back after the first trimester. Such poses can reduce blood flow to the uterus.

Also, avoid yoga poses that stretch the muscles too much, particularly the abdominal muscles.

Always do yoga under the guidance of a trained expert and keep them informed about your health status.

3. Practice Mindful Meditation

Calmness and positivity are more important than ever when you are pregnant. It becomes even more important if you have ADHD.

To ensure calmness and positivity, practicing mindful meditation helps a lot. It helps you cope with the demands on your body and mind, and benefits your unborn baby in a variety of ways.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that participants with ADHD who received mindfulness meditation training reported a decline in inattentive and hyperactive-impulse symptoms.

Meditation also calms pregnancy stress, which can otherwise trigger an inflammatory response that can result in lower birth weight or an early delivery.

Stress may also have long-term effects on your child, leading to developmental problems and hyperactivity.

4. Get Proper Sleep

The ongoing hormonal changes in the body as well as the increasing weight of the baby can make it difficult for pregnant women to enjoy sound sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health, during pregnancy, women may need a few more hours of sleep per night or a few short naps during the day.

A 2010 study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews reports that pregnant women need sufficient sleep to nourish the development of their infants and the energy they need for the labor and delivery process.

The study also sheds light on the fact that sleep deprivation during pregnancy has been associated with longer labor, elevated perception of pain and discomfort during labor, higher cesarean rates, preterm labor and higher levels of pro-inflammatory serum cytokines.

Also, a healthy amount of sleep can help improve symptoms of ADHD, such as irritability and inattention. On the other hand, sleep disturbances can make ADHD symptoms worse.

5. Pay Attention to Diet and Nutrition

A healthy diet and proper nutrition is important during pregnancy and in managing ADHD symptoms.

Both the body and brain require different types of nutrients to function properly and, during pregnancy, you need to follow a well-balanced diet to ensure good health for your baby.

Eat foods high in protein to increase the production of dopamine, which helps you stay focused. Also, eat magnesium-rich foods to help reduce irritability, increase attention span and lessen mental confusion.

Take prenatal vitamins as well as the fatty acids and brain foods that help negate undesirable symptoms.

Other foods that may be helpful are foods rich in vitamin B6, zinc and calcium.

Caution: During pregnancy, do not take any nutritional supplements without consulting your doctor.

Additional Tips

  • It is recommended to switch to a gluten-free diet to improve behavior and thinking.
  • Keep drinking water throughout the day to prevent everything from stretch marks to emotional meltdowns.
  • Spend quality time with your family.
  • Look for new ways to improve your connection with your unborn baby.

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