Is it safe to take CBD oil while pregnant? What about CBD oil and breastfeeding? Find out what we know – and don't know – about cannabidiol oil and its safety. Curiosity around the therapeutic uses for CBD has reached a fever pitch, but is it safe when you're nursing? Here's what experts say.
Is CBD safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding?
Most experts recommend avoiding CBD while pregnant or breastfeeding. We don’t know enough about CBD oil to conclude that it’s safe or effective for a pregnant mom and her developing baby – or for a breastfeeding mom and her nursing baby. Because CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA, there are serious questions about product quality, too. CBD products may be contaminated with THC and other substances, and there are no good guidelines for dosing.
What is CBD oil?
CBD oil is extracted from cannabidiol (CBD), one of the active ingredients in the cannabis plant.
The other most commonly known ingredient in this plant is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the psychoactive compound that causes a high.
Both marijuana and hemp are cannabis plants. Marijuana has varying levels of TCH, while hemp contains it in extremely low levels.
Most CBD oil is made from hemp plants. (While it’s sometimes labeled hemp oil or CBD hemp oil, CBD oil not the same thing as hemp seed oil.) Oil made from marijuana varieties of the cannabis plant is called cannabis oil, and it’ll contain some THC as well as CBD and other compounds.
CBD does not produce a high, and evidence suggests that it’s not addictive, according to the World Health Organization.
Some methods of taking CBD:
- Sublingual: The most common way people take CBD is by placing drops or tinctures under the tongue. That part of your mouth is rich in capillaries, so the CBD reaches your bloodstream quickly.
- Vaping: Vape pens are often used to take CBD, which also reaches the bloodstream quickly.
- Capsules/pills: These are attractive to people who want an easy way to take CBD regularly.
- Liquids: CBD oil can be blended into smoothies or cocktails.
- Edibles and gummies: The oil can be baked into sweets such as cookies, and is also used to make candies, chocolate, and gummies. While edibles aren’t the most efficient way to get CBD into your bloodstream, they have longer-lasting effects.
- Topical: CBD can be blended with other oils – such as coconut or beeswax – and rubbed into muscles and joints or used in cosmetics.
- Smoking: The CBD flower can be smoked like other forms of cannabis. This is another method that gets CBD into the bloodstream quickly.
What is CBD oil used for?
CBD oil and other CBD products are used to treat many ailments. According to a study of more than 2000 CBD users, more than half were using it to treat a medical condition or symptom – most often:
- Pain (chronic pain and arthritis/joint pain)
- Insomnia or other sleep disorders
Users are also enlisting CBD to treat:
- Migraine, cluster, and tension headaches
- Nausea, including chemotherapy-induced nausea
- Allergies or asthma
- Epilepsy or other seizure disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- COPD/other lung conditions
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
In addition to using CBD to alleviate stress, anxiety, pain, and insomnia, some pregnant women take it to treat morning sickness. But there’s no proof that CBD is effective in treating these conditions, and there’s no consensus on what doses are appropriate.
Is CBD oil safe during pregnancy?
We don’t know if CBD oil is safe during pregnancy, so experts say to avoid it. Here’s what some leading groups say:
- The Food and Drug Administration(FDA) states: “There may be serious risks to using cannabis products, including those containing CBD, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.” The organization “strongly advises that during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, you avoid using CBD, THC, or marijuana in any form.” They are collecting and studying data on the possible harmful effects of CBD during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, but say based on what they know so far, “there is significant cause for concern.”
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to the need for more research on how babies and their future health might be affected by CBD, and recommends health care providers counsel pregnant women about the use of marijuana and any byproducts. They caution that CBD products “have not been evaluated for whether they work, what the proper dosage may be if they do work, how they could interact with other drugs, or whether they have harmful side effects or other safety concerns.”
- The American Academy of Pediatrics similarly recommends that “women who are using marijuana or other cannabinoid-containing products to treat a medical condition or to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy should be counseled about the lack of safety data and the possible adverse effects of THC in these products on the developing fetus.” (CBD products are not guaranteed to be THC-free; see below.)
Here’s why using CBD during pregnancy isn’t considered safe at this time:
Lack of reassuring safety studies
While there have been some studies on marijuana use and pregnancy, there’s no comprehensive body of research yet about the safety of CBD during pregnancy. The studies we do have don’t support CBD use during pregnancy. For example:
- A recent animal study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that CBD exposure in mice during pregnancy and lactation affected long-term brain function in their offspring. Female offspring whose mothers were exposed to CBD showed increased anxiety as adults. And hundreds of genes in their brains were affected, in particular those involved in neurological disorders, including diseases like autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, and substance use disorder. No changes were found in the male offspring.
- A review of 32 studies (animal and human) concluded that CBD has negative effects on the reproductive systems of males, including the size of testes, the number of sperm cells, fertilization rates, and pituitary and gonadal hormones. Regular doses of CBD were linked to impaired sexual behavior in mice.
- Some studies conclude that high doses of CBD may cause liver damage in humans. Others suggest that the doses commonly used in supplements and foods would likely not increase the risk of liver damage. Research to determine what doses of CBD are safe in terms of liver health is ongoing.
CBD may interact with other medications, such as blood thinners, and potentially cause serious side effects. Other possible side effects of using CBD include:
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme sleepiness
Lack of product quality and purity
CBD products aren’t well regulated. They can be contaminated with substances that aren’t safe for a fetus, including THC, pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and fungus.
The label on the CBD product you purchase may be incorrect. In one study, researchers tested 84 CBD products and found that 26 percent contained substantially less CBD than shown on the label, and 43 percent contained substantially more. THC was detected in 18 of the 84 samples.
It’s against federal law to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement. The FDA says that some CBD products are being marketed with unproven medical claims and their quality is unknown. Only one CBD product is approved by the FDA for medical use, and that’s a drug used to treat rare, severe forms of seizures in children. Still, some companies continue to make unproven claims about CBD.
Is CBD oil safe to use while breastfeeding?
We don’t know if CBD oil is safe to use when you’re breastfeeding. Based on what we know so far, experts expect that some CBD is transferred through breast milk to nursing babies. (We know that breast milk can contain THC for up to six days after use.) That means that any contaminants in the CBD might also be transferred to your baby.
It also means that all of the reasons you shouldn’t use CBD while pregnant apply to taking it while breastfeeding. The CDC says, “To limit potential risk to the infant, breastfeeding mothers should be advised not to use marijuana or marijuana-containing products in any form, including those containing CBD, while breastfeeding.”
The truth is, there are far more questions than answers when it comes to CBD, especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
If you’re looking to CBD to help cope with issues like morning sickness, pregnancy insomnia, anxiety during pregnancy, or postpartum depression, talk to your doctor or midwife about other, safer treatments.
BabyCenter’s editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you’re seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.
Bonn-Miller M et al. 2017. Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. JAMA 318(17): 1,708-1,709. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2661569 [Accessed May 2021]
Carvlho RK et al. 2019. The effects of cannabidiol on male reproductive system: A literature review. Journal of Applied Toxicology 40(1): 132-150. https://analyticalsciencejournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jat.3831 [Accessed May 2021]
Corroon J et al. 2018. A cross-sectional study of cannabidiol users. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 3(1): 152-161. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6043845/ [Accessed May 2021]
Ewing LE. 2019. Hepatotoxicity of a cannabidiol-rich cannabis extract in the mouse model. Molecules 24(9). https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/24/9/1694/htm [Accessed May 2021]
FDA. 2020. What you need to know (and what we’re working to find out) about products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, including CBD. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis [Accessed May 2021]
FDA 2019. What you should know about using cannabis, including CBD, when pregnant or breastfeeding. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-should-know-about-using-cannabis-including-cbd-when-pregnant-or-breastfeeding [Accessed May 2021]
Huestis M et al. 2019. Cannabidiol adverse effects and toxicity. Current Neuropharmacology 17(10): 974-989. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7052834/ [Accessed May 2021]
Stohs SJ et al. 2020. Is cannabidiol hepatotoxic or hepatoprotective: A review. Sage Journal. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2397847320922944 [Accessed May 2021]
Wanner NM et al. 2021. Developmental cannabidiol exposure increases anxiety and modifies genome-wide brain DNA methylation in adult female mice. Clinical Epigenetics 13(4). https://clinicalepigeneticsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13148-020-00993-4 [Accessed May 2021]
Karen Miles is a writer and an expert on pregnancy and parenting who has contributed to BabyCenter for more than 20 years. She’s passionate about bringing up-to-date, useful information to parents so they can make good decisions for their families. Her favorite gig of all is being “Mama Karen” to four grown children and “Nana” to eight grandkids.
CBD and Breastfeeding: Is It Safe?
Curiosity around the therapeutic uses for CBD has reached a fever pitch, but is it safe when you’re nursing? Here’s what experts say.
Maressa Brown is a seasoned lifestyle journalist, writer, and astrologer. In addition to being a regular contributor to Parents.com, her bylines appear on InStyle, Shape, What to Expect, Cosmopolitan, et al. She is the author of a forthcoming parenting title to be published by Artisan Books in early 2023. A graduate of Emerson College, she’s based in Los Angeles.
Pregnancy is one thing, but postpartum life often comes with a variety of mental and physical challenges. As many as one in five women suffer from postpartum depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other concerns include anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia, all compounded by the lack of sleep and hormonal shifts that naturally occur after giving birth. It’s no wonder more new parents are gravitating to CBD, or cannabidiol, a component of either a marijuana or hemp plant that is non-psychoactive (unlike THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which only comes from marijuana).
CBD has been touted as the active ingredient in a variety of therapeutic products that boast anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsant, and antidepressant properties. But is it safe to use CBD while breastfeeding? Here’s what nursing parents need to know about CBD.
- RELATED: Which Medications Are Safe While Breastfeeding?
What the Science Says About Using CBD While Breastfeeding
Research has focused primarily on THC, as opposed to CBD, in breast milk, and the conclusion is that it is possible to pass low levels of the psychoactive ingredient to your baby while nursing. A study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology looked at samples of breast milk from eight anonymous test subjects who regularly use cannabis and found that babies who were three to five months old and who were breastfed exclusively ingested an estimated 2.5 percent of the maternal dose of THC. (Researchers didn’t, however, take blood samples from the infants to see if they had measurable levels of THC in their bodies.)
And trying to “pump and dump” doesn’t work for cannabis products, as chemicals from cannabis that entered the body days or weeks prior to breastfeeding can make their way into breast milk, according to Medical News Today. In fact, other research published in the journal Pediatrics found that low levels of THC may be found in breast milk for up to six days after smoking cannabis or eating an edible.
Granted, this research was done on marijuana and THC, not hemp and CBD. But experts are concerned about the effect of any cannabinoid on an infant’s brain development.
“We truly do not know what short- or long-term impact on the baby it may have,” says Felice Gersh, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and author of PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones, and Happiness.
Is CBD Safe While Breastfeeding?
“Having a new baby is stressful, and some may wish to turn to cannabis products,” Dr. Gersh notes. But the limited data on its safety—and the fact that it will pass into breast milk—makes it difficult for many experts to advise its use for nursing parents. “Unfortunately, there is no safety data to allow a doctor to recommend the use of cannabis or CBD,” says Dr. Gersh.
Mary Clifton, M.D., an internal medicine doctor in New York City agrees, stating, “If a new parent is breastfeeding, it’s probably not wise to use CBD. The medical community doesn’t support the use of CBD in these settings, because proper studies can’t be completed on the effect on the baby or infant.”
Despite the lack of published research, new parents have used cannabinoids for thousands of years, notes Robert Flannery, Ph.D, owner of Dr. Robb Farms. “Yes, THC and CBD are expressed in small quantities in breast milk,” Dr. Flannery says. And while he doesn’t feel comfortable suggesting CBD for a new parent who is breastfeeding, he acknowledges the use of cannabis in the past.
“We do not have enough research to make claims one way or another on how that breast milk would affect the milk-fed babies,” says Dr. Flannery. “Cannabis is a medicine that has been used specifically for pregnant and breastfeeding parents for millennia. I will never make a claim without the science to back it up, but we should understand that anecdotal evidence can be used to formulate testable hypotheses to validate the use of cannabis at this time in a one’s life.”
Risks Vs. Benefits of CBD While Breastfeeding
Ultimately, because CBD “has been shown to be little risk to both adults and children” and therefore, “may not pose a problem,” it is important to weigh the risk versus benefits for the breastfeeding parent and the infant, says Hilary Peckham, the co-founder of Etain Health, the only all-women, family owned medical marijuana dispensary company in New York.
For instance, many new parents suffer from postpartum depression, anxiety, fatigue, mood swings and detachment from the infant. “Many sufferers start a treatment of antidepressants which may not be appropriate for breastfeeding and may need to be discontinued,” Peckham says. “Starting CBD may still allow the parent to breastfeed and prolong the bonding time with the infant. That said, you should speak to your doctor before starting CBD, especially if you are breastfeeding.”
The Bottom Line
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend physicians counsel parents to abstain from all cannabis products—including CBD—if they wish to breastfeed. However, given the minimal amount of the substance that make its way into breast milk, and the fact that research has yet to confirm the exact effects on an infant, anyone interested in trying CBD while nursing would do well to speak to their doctor.