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ADHD Causes: Complications during Pregnancy

Medical doctors and scientists often blame genetics for the occurrence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among children and adults. While genetic factors place a person at high risk for ADHD, more and more studies show that the environment also plays a significant role in triggering the disorder.  Among these environmental factors are maternal behaviors during pregnancy and pre-natal complications.

Smoking and alcohol consumption

It goes without saying that smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy will bring a host of health and psychological problems to the baby in utero.  Most mothers wouldn’t drink alcohol or smoke during pregnancy, but it’s surprising how many women in their childbearing years indulge in these habits without realizing that they’re pregnant.   Many mothers are also unaware that simply exposing their babies to secondhand smoke is enough to cause damage.

Dr. Eric Mick of Harvard Medical School interviewed the mothers of 280 children with ADHD and asked them questions about their lifestyle during pregnancy. These children were compared to another group of 240 children without ADHD.  He discovered that the children diagnosed with ADHD were two times more likely to have been exposed to cigarette smoke and two times more likely to have been exposed to alcohol while in the womb.  Although none of the children experienced fetal alcohol syndrome, these findings indicate that smoking and drinking during pregnancy are definite risk factors for ADHD.

A similar study by Brian D’Onofrio, Ph.D., of Indiana University revealed similar results. He and his team gathered data from 4,912 mothers who participated in a national survey, and asked them questions about substance use during their pregnancies.  Their children were also assessed for  behavioral problems. They discovered that children whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy had more attention and impulsivity problems than children whose mothers did not drink. This association remained consistent regardless of other variables, such as the mother’s education level, intellectual ability, or other drugs used during pregnancy.


There is also a relationship between maternal stress during pregnancy and the presence of ADHD symptoms in children.  In a study done by McGill University, 203 children with ADHD were examined for the severity of their symptoms using several scales.  Their mothers were also asked to answer the Kinney Medical and Gynecological Questionnaire to assess complications and stressful life events during pregnancy and birth.  The researchers discovered that children with severe ADHD symptoms had mothers who experienced moderate to severe stress during pregnancy.  Besides ADHD, it was also noted that these children were also more likely to exhibit anxiety and mood disorders.  The researchers also found that increased stress during the third trimester of pregnancy was linked to more severe ADHD symptoms.

Pre-natal exposure to cigarette smoke, alcohol, and stress during pregnancy are only some of the many factors that can trigger ADHD and other behavioral disorders in a child.  It is important to remember that the triggers of ADHD do not work in isolation, and that we need to uncover all possible causes in order to come up with the right treatment plan for your child. This is what the UnRitalin Solution is meant to be.