Blog Post | Is Birth Control Making My ADHD Worse?


Is Birth Control Making My ADHD Worse?

Ladies – let’s talk about hormones. Ever wonder why you can be smooth sailing with managing your ADHD symptoms for weeks, and suddenly you find yourself lost in a sea of brain fog? While many things could be at play, your fluctuating hormones - specifically estrogen and progesterone - may be to blame. I was never much of a science student, but as a woman with ADHD who wants to get the most out of my days (and who recently made a hormone-related birth control blunder), I’ve decided to make it my business to understand how my hormones may be affecting my ADHD symptoms. If you’d like to start educating yourself along with me, Laura Flynn McCarthy’s recent article in ADDitude magazine is a great place to start. 

We all know women’s hormones go through some wild roller coaster rides throughout our lives: there’s puberty, and every month throughout our reproductive years. For women who have babies, pregnancy and postpartum bring massive hormonal changes, and then we have the perimenopause and menopausal stages of our lives. What you may not know is when those hormones are changing, our ADHD symptoms change right along with them, for better or worse.  

Here’s what I’ve learned from the latest science: estrogen is an ADHD gal’s best friend when it comes to sharpening our executive functioning (E.F. skills include things like working memory, task initiation, time management, and prioritization), because it increases the production of dopamine that our ADHD brains crave. Progesterone negatively impacts our ADHD symptoms and may make amphetamine medication less effective. Basically, estrogen helps our ADHD symptoms; progesterone makes them worse.

I wish I had known this at my last doctor’s appointment. Having given birth three months ago, I’ve been riding the hormonal waves for the past year. At my last doctor’s visit, it was time for me to get back on birth control. My doctor and I decided to try an IUD that uses the progesterone hormone. It seemed like a smart choice - with an IUD, I wouldn’t have to remember to take a birth control pill every day. 

Over the next few weeks, my ADHD meds seemed to pack less of a punch. Even as my baby boy was letting me sleep longer stretches through the nights, I struggled with focus and getting things done. When I read McCarthy’s article on hormones and ADHD, it clicked: the progesterone hormone from my IUD was wreaking havoc on my executive functioning! I’ve scheduled a new appointment and am looking forward to trying an oral contraceptive that gives three straight weeks of estrogen and one week of progesterone, which some women with ADHD report have helped their symptoms. 

We can’t always count on our health care providers to be up-to-date on the latest research, so it’s a good idea to arm ourselves with the information and be our own advocates. If you find yourself struggling with ADHD symptoms more than you used to, it may be time to talk to your doctor about adjusting your care plan to match your changing hormones. 


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

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