My Symptoms Are Worse Postpartum

"I've been diagnosed with ADHD, but my symptoms got worse after I had my baby. Is it possible that the change in hormones altered my brain chemistry?"
The Experts | posted by Patricia Quinn, M.D.

Changes in hormone levels may affect brain neurotransmitters and, perhaps, ADHD symptoms. Estrogen enhances the release of monoamine neurotransmitter (dopamine and serotonin) release into the synapse of the brain. When estrogen levels fall, as they do immediately after birth, dopamine levels decrease, and many women report a worsening of their ADHD symptoms. Discuss any symptoms with your doctor, and decide on a course of treatment, if appropriate.

As your hormones level out over the next year, things will settle down a bit, but there may be other factors that need to be addressed. Caring for a newborn can cause sleep deprivation, which worsens attention, concentration, and focus. Try to get lots of rest and limit stressful situations during this time of physical and psychological adjustment. Ask for help even if you don't think you need it.

Patricia O. Quinn, M.D., is the director of the National Center for Girls and Women with AD/HD, in Washington, D.C.

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