Blog Post | Diary of a Pregnant ADHDer: Feelings on Feelings


Diary of a Pregnant ADHDer: Feelings on Feelings 

30 weeks. 30 weeks of “pregnancy brain” with the volume jacked up by my ADHD. This “big mama” (as my 8-year-old now lovingly calls me) is carrying a somersaulting, high-kicking, eggplant-sized baby boy that is starting to keep me up at night with bathroom runs and sore hips. And boy, do I have feelings about it.

Us ADHDers tend to feel our emotions in a big way, for better or worse. Maybe you can relate: my passion, compassion, kindness, and empathy are what my friends and husband love about me and have been strengths professionally as a teacher and ADHD coach; the shadow side to these big feelings is that I’ve had to work hard to learn not to internalize big feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. Left unchecked, they’ve been paralyzing and have kept me from moving toward my goals. 

Let’s take these naturally occurring big ADHD feelings and add the wild hormonal changes that come with pregnancy. Oh, and take away the ADHD medication that has helped regulate those big emotions in the past. Add a laundry list of new decisions, responsibilities, appointments to remember, impacted sleep schedule, do’s and don’ts that you can’t mess up (including — and I love this — “don’t be stressed”) and you’ve got yourself a recipe for next-level big feelings.

So yes, there may be a few things that have been bothering me a bit more than usual. Take social media for example: since when are all my friends (or acquaintances, or that one person I met at a wedding eight years ago) globe-trotting models with perfect families and fresh promotions? From where I’m sitting, tired and bloated in the unending winter of Duluth, MN, I can’t even pretend to be happy for them. 

Is it hilarious that I cry uncontrollably while watching Encanto for the 6th time with my kids? They seem to think so, and yeah, they’re absolutely right. But I also want to be real, because these big emotional mood swings are more than just funny anecdotes of pregnant gals crying at sappy commercials. Increased executive functioning challenges, sometimes without the support of medication, and with all the other changes going on with our bodies make it harder to keep up with home and work responsibilities. It’s easier to beat ourselves up if we’re struggling to meet our responsibilities; soon the A.N.T.s (automatic negative thoughts) come marching in. It’s no surprise, then, that a 2020 study found that pregnant women with ADHD who discontinued their stimulant medication experienced a significant increase in postnatal depression and significant impairment in family functioning. The challenges, emotions and experiences we face as pregnant women with ADHD are serious and shouldn’t be ignored.

So how have I been coping? Well, first of all, I’m not “managing” my emotions as much as noticing them and accepting them with kindness, understanding, and a sense of humor when I can muster it. I know the big feels are a fact of pregnancy I can’t avoid, and all a part of creating this tiny human — it’s pretty amazing, actually. 

Instead of trying to deal with my emotions by myself, I talk things out with “my people.” The folks who I know won’t judge or be critical. Finding any way to get your feelings out of your head usually gives those negative thoughts less power. Journaling has been very effective with some of my clients (I used to practice the habit of writing 3 wins from my day before I went to bed) or giving yourself a 3-minute time limit to verbalize your feelings to someone who will “get it” has helped folks move past an emotional block.

Physical activity has always kept me sane in the past. I admit that I’ve become more sedentary as I’ve grown bigger, sleepier, and the winter has dragged on — but hey, it’s Spring! Some of you may not even have snow on the ground! Even a short walk has done wonders for my mood. 

I may be biased on this one, but ADHD coaching helps folks with ADHD set realistic goals and develop action plans to meet those goals. This may be a tool pregnant ADHDers could use to help things feel more manageable. If you feel like you may be clinically depressed or anxious, please don’t be shy about talking to your doctor right away and consider seeing a therapist with an understanding of adult ADHD. 

Finally, I think I’ll give myself a social media break — at least until it’s time to show off the little bambino.


Abby Riley
ADHD Coach | Center For Living Well with ADHD, LLC

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