ADHD symptoms and risk of pregnancy
Two days before graduating from college, I realized I was pregnant.
I didn’t need a test to confirm it; My cycle was regular like a clock. Nausea had set in, and fear followed. I was a cradle Catholic. My mother and her friends talked about pregnant girls in low, embarrassed voices. Some girls I knew hid their pregnancy for as long as nine months and then gave their babies up for adoption. Some kept their children and lived as miserable dependents. Some were sent to maternity homes. One was expelled from Catholic school. At the age of 22, I no longer considered myself religious and knew that pregnancy was not an option.
Despite my untreated ADHD, I had earned admission to graduate school. Having a baby didn’t fit into my academic future.
I needed an abortion. And I needed it quickly.
But I had $20 in my name. I didn’t have a ride to an abortion clinic — and even if I did, abortions at that time and place cost money I didn’t have. Then (as now) pregnant girls were on their own. I couldn’t tell my friends. I couldn’t tell anyone. In my impulsive desperation, I dove headfirst into Google. Even back then, several websites were telling girls who had run out of options what to do and how to do it.
[Read: Roe v. Wade Ruling May Disproportionately Impact Girls with ADHD]
The proposed solutions to terminating a pregnancy were dangerous. Only impulsive girls prone to risk taking would try them. I picked one and followed her. It worked. I sobbed alone in the shower, which I now recognize as contractions. Years later, I still wonder if that monumental risk damaged me beyond repair.
This is what happens when women with ADHD don’t have access to basic reproductive care.
In the last month, many Americans have been deprived of this basic freedom. Since abortion is no longer a federally protected right, several states acted immediately to ban it. Thirteen states have trigger laws that quickly outlawed the procedure. As many as 22 have laws that “could be used to limit the legal status of abortion,” according to The Guttmacher Institute. It is now or soon to be impossible to access abortion treatment in much of the South: all southern states except Virginia and North Carolina will ban the procedure. Fifty-eight percent of American women live in states that are “hostile or extremely hostile” to abortion rights.
While roeThe repeal affects all people who can become pregnant, it is particularly dangerous for women with ADHD. Its symptoms include inattention, impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, and low frustration tolerance; according to that DSM, which impact “work, personal life, and relationships” — even more so when ADHD is left untreated. These symptoms, combined with a lack of reproductive rights, make a dangerous stew for adults with ADHD, especially those who go undiagnosed.
As I was.
I was impulsive enough to contact Google because I couldn’t think rationally enough to plan. I was too frustrated to make another, better choice. I acted hastily. If it wasn’t for ADHD, I might have made a better choice.
[Read: “My Period-Tracking App Helps Me Manage My ADHD. What Do I Do Post-Roe?”]
Birth control pills need to be taken at about the same time each day. The Guttmacher Institute puts a “typical” failure of the pill at seven percent; Obviously, this number increases with symptoms of forgetfulness for people with ADHD. Greater numbers of people with ADHD are now getting pregnant on the pill — and not having access to abortions.
Additionally, many people have obtained their birth control from health centers like Planned Parenthood, which also offer abortion services. With these centers closed, many Americans with ADHD will face a new barrier to accessing birth control. They can resort to condoms, a method that has a typical failure rate of 13%.
I fell into that 13%. I tried to be responsible – and still faced an unplanned pregnancy.
But let’s not forget that impulsiveness is another common symptom of ADHD in adults. Without access to hormonal birth control, potentially pregnant people with ADHD are more likely to simply roll the dice and engage in unprotected intercourse (a less likely scenario if they had access to hormonal birth control). This will lead to more unwanted pregnancies – and without access to abortion care, many will have no choice but to carry those pregnancies to term.
As I’ve learned, there are many ways to induce an abortion, and pregnant people with ADHD symptoms of impulsiveness and low frustration tolerance may be more likely to resort to Google than I did. Many of these non-medical remedies are ineffective and dangerous. They could harm the pregnant person or simply not work, leading not only to premature pregnancy but also to birth defects in the child.
Adults with ADHD who face an unplanned pregnancy and lack reproductive rights face serious challenges. They are more likely to have difficulty finding and keeping a job. In 2014, a full 75% of all abortion patients were “poor” (having an income below the federal poverty line) or “low-income” (having an income between 100% and 199% of the federal poverty line). This value is undoubtedly higher in pregnant women with ADHD. With roe When protective measures are lifted, more pregnant people with ADHD become poor and carry an unwanted pregnancy.
States with abortion restrictions are less likely to have social services for impoverished parents, and parents with ADHD are more likely to need them. Without them, these post-roe Children in America are more likely to suffer the consequences of growing up poor: “underachievement in school, obesity, behavioral problems, and social and emotional developmental difficulties,” according to the American Psychological Association, along with “hunger, disease, insecurity, [and] Instability.”
In addition, children of parents with ADHD have a 50 percent chance of developing ADHD themselves. This can lead to a vicious cycle of unwanted pregnancy and poverty that is not easy to break.
These statistics don’t even come close to touching on the lived reality of a person with ADHD facing an unwanted pregnancy. The consequences spiral outward: Faced with a lack of options, how many pregnant people with ADHD will live in denial and forego proper prenatal care? How many people with ADHD who are faced with an unwanted pregnancy will experience intimate partner violence – as ADHD sufferers are more likely to do? How many children are abused and neglected? Children of unwanted pregnancies are more likely to be abused, both by their mothers and their fathers.
During this post-roe Although the world is dangerous for all potentially pregnant people, people with ADHD are in a worse situation than most. Many facets of their condition make them vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies; Without reproductive rights, both they and their unwanted children face tremendous adversity to avoid poverty and maintain their psychological well-being. The cancellation of roe puts every potentially pregnant person in America at risk. For people with ADHD, this reversal is more likely to have life-changing consequences — and more likely to perpetuate the cycle of poverty and failure.
Reproductive Rights for Women with ADHD: Next Steps
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