is cbd oil bad for pregnant women

Marijuana or CBD During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

Though not everyone talks about it openly, marijuana and related products like CBD (cannabidiol, one of the active ingredients in marijuana) are a big topic in the world of motherhood. While there is limited research available on what effect marijuana has on a baby in utero, researchers and physicians warn against its use by moms-to-be. Here are some reasons why, and some tips to help you navigate this topic.

Why Do Mothers Use Marijuana?

Marijuana is illegal and classified as a Schedule I substance under federal law, the same category as heroin and LSD. But that thinking appears outdated to many, since several states have legalized marijuana for recreational use and even more allow medical marijuana.

If you peruse any motherhood app, website or forum, there are likely to be questions and anecdotes about using marijuana before, during or after pregnancy. Some common uses of cannabis are to ease morning sickness during the first trimester and to combat the anxiety that can sometimes accompany a newborn. CBD oils and products are also used in an attempt to relieve aches and pains caused by pregnancy and delivery.

Some mothers perceive marijuana as a natural alternative to prescription medications.

No matter the reasoning behind the use of marijuana or CBD during or after pregnancy, there are some key findings to understand before doing so. And if you’re struggling with substance abuse, seek help.

What the Research Shows About Marijuana Use During Pregnancy

UNC School of Medicine researchers are producing some of the first solid studies on what marijuana use during pregnancy can do to a developing baby.

They’ve learned that cannabinoids (the active ingredients in cannabis, including CBD and THC) can cause brain and facial birth defects if used during the first trimester of pregnancy. Scott Parnell, PhD, assistant professor of cell biology and physiology, along with his research lab in the UNC Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, has shown this in mice, which are very accurate models of early human pregnancy.

Dr. Parnell and fellow researchers found these defects happened after a one-time exposure of cannabinoids. They also discovered that because of the way cannabinoids interact with our bodies on a basic cellular level, when combined with alcohol, a CBD or THC exposure more than doubled the likelihood of these developmental changes.

The timing of this study is notable. The exposures happened during what would be equivalent to the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy in humans, which is before most women know they are pregnant.

“It is concerning how little we know about the use of marijuana, its cannabinoids and products like CBD oil during pregnancy,” Dr. Parnell says. “We know that there is no safe period to drink alcohol during a pregnancy, and I think this research shows the same is likely true of marijuana use.”

While this is the first study to show that marijuana directly caused abnormal development, other studies have shown associations between marijuana use during pregnancy and preterm birth and low birth weight, along with difficulties in cognitive abilities and behavioral control during the early childhood years. Some of these studies are several years old; the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug makes research difficult.

A Pediatrician’s Point of View

Based on the research that does exist on marijuana use in pregnancy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises against the use of marijuana or any of its products, including CBD, during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, as does the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

While physicians rely on these recommendations and cite research when offering their advice to new mothers, they also use the wisdom they’ve gained from years of experience.

“Doctors like to give reasons for the instructions we give patients, but we can’t do that as well in this case,” says pediatrician Alison Sweeney, MD. “We extrapolate on things we do know, which is the fact that what goes into your body shows up in your breast milk and then is passed on to your baby.”

The medical community is still learning how long marijuana stays in breast milk, Dr. Sweeney adds, but studies have shown THC can be found in breast milk up to six days after a mother uses the drug. Because there’s no great way to tell just how long marijuana will stay in breast milk, the safest option is not to use it while breastfeeding, she says.

The bottom line is that there is no research showing that it is safe to use marijuana or its products during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, Dr. Sweeney says.

As for CBD oils or products applied to the skin, she says, “we’ve established through research that when people put sunscreen on their skin, it gets absorbed into the body and can show up in blood and urine. So you could make the connection that if CBD oil or lotion is used on the skin, it could also get transferred to a developing baby and show up in breast milk.”

Her biggest suggestion to new mothers is to talk to a physician if they are thinking about using marijuana or any other substance that they are unsure of.

“We want women to seek care and help. We want them to ask questions,” Dr. Sweeney says. “A doctor’s job is not to penalize you for asking questions. It is to provide information that can help you make the best decisions for you and your baby.”

How to Manage Without Marijuana

For women experiencing nausea during pregnancy, several medications have proved safe and effective, Dr. Sweeney says.

“Some of the medicines cause increased sleepiness, so you should talk to your doctor about which is right for you. When combined with other measures, like anti-nausea wristbands, these medications work pretty well.”

If you already take a prescription for anxiety or depression before getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether to continue that medication through pregnancy, because in several cases it is safe to do so.

After pregnancy, the number of medications a breastfeeding mother can take for anxiety or depression expands further, Dr. Sweeney says. Again, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor to formulate a treatment plan. If you think you may have postpartum depression or another type of mood disorder, it’s especially important to seek treatment.

There are other ways to cope with the stress of a new baby. You can find a support group of moms in your community, and make sure your friends and family are ready to lend a hand at home. You could also try yoga or meditation to help relieve some anxiety.

“Being a new mom is a type of happy crisis,” Dr. Sweeney says. “The feelings of anxiety are heightened by being in such a new situation, and sleep deprivation can exacerbate those feelings. Your pediatrician can be a great resource for all types of questions after delivery, so take advantage of that for yourself. And please know you are not alone.”

If you would like to talk to an OB-GYN or a pediatrician, find one here.

Scott Parnell, PhD
Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology in the UNC School of Medicine

Scott Parnell, PhD, is an assistant professor of cell biology and physiology in the UNC School of Medicine and a member of the UNC Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies.

Alison Sweeney, MD
Medical Director of the Newborn Section of Hospital Pediatrics at NC Women’s Hospital

Alison Sweeney, MD, is a pediatrician and the medical director of the newborn section of hospital pediatrics at the NC Women’s Hospital.

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)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia or other sleep disorders

Users are also enlisting CBD to treat:

  • Migraine, cluster, and tension headaches
  • PTSD
  • Nausea, including chemotherapy-induced nausea
  • Cancer
  • 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.

Side effects

CBD may interact with other medications, such as blood thinners, and potentially cause serious side effects. Other possible side effects of using CBD include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • 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.

Learn more:

Sources

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.

Is CBD Oil Safe During Pregnancy?

Cannabidiol is a substance derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. There are over 80 chemicals found in the Cannabis sativa plant referred to as cannabinoids. Cannabidiol or CBD is popular among epilepsy patients because it helps in regulating seizures. It also relieves pain, anxiety, muscle disorders such as dystonia, Crohn disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many other health conditions. However, you can’t find any reliable scientific evidence that supports these claims. So the big question asked by so many women, “is CBD oil safe during pregnancy?”

How does CBD oil works?

Cannabidiol contains antipsychotic effects, and the precise cause for this is still unknown. But according to many studies, cannabidiol prevents the breakdown of a particular chemical found in the brain that distresses mental function, mood, and pain. CBD counteracts the collapse of the specific compound as well as increase its number in the bloodstreams to minimize psychotic symptoms related to health conditions like schizophrenia. People using CBD is saying that this supplement works best in reducing anxiety and pain.

Is CBD oil safe while breastfeeding?

If you are a breastfeeding mother, you are fully aware that you need to keep track of your consumption. There are some foods and beverages that are deemed to be prohibited, but is CBD oil safe while breastfeeding? A lot of studies about how CBD oil responses with the human body are still ongoing, and because of some ethical restrictions, it is hard to openly study the effect of CBD on breastfeeding women as well as their babies. However, this doesn’t imply that there’s no available information about this topic.

Because of the new changes within U.S. legislation along with its alleged health benefits, CBD oil is now experiencing overflowing popularity. With great benefits like reducing stress, increasing appetite, and better sleep, it seems possible that CBD oil could really help in improving the health of a mother, but is CBD oil safe for a nursing baby?

Why do some breastfeeding mothers consider the use of CBD oil?

The uncertainty surrounding CBD oil and the possible effects on nursing babies could be sufficient for some mothers to stay away from it. But for some, there are many other reasons why it is good to use CBD oil while nursing a baby.

Most of the breastfeeding moms out there are affected by PPD or postpartum depression – it’s an unpleasant condition for new moms that cause mood swings, fatigue, and anxiety, and even detachment from your baby. Typically, PPD is treated with medicines that aren’t suitable for breastfeeding mothers. When a breastfeeding mother takes antidepressants, it brings an end to the nursing journey.

Studies show that CBD can lessen depression in many ways; one among these is by its effects on anandamide; it’s a neurotransmitter, also known as “bliss molecule.” Anandamide has a significant role in experiencing happiness, joy, and motivation. CBD oil turns to be some kind of anandamide reuptake inhibitor, meaning it adds up to the number of anandamide existing in the brain. For women with PPD, the higher amount of anandamide present in mind may possibly drop the harsh and limiting effects of postpartum depression.

CBD oil brings a lot of other benefits apart from positive controls on anxiety and mood that could make life free from stress for nursing mothers.

As stated by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nursing mothers need to add 450-500 more calories to their regular diets each day to constitute the proportion fed to the infant. Not having enough calorie consumption may cause harmful weight loss and fatigue to new mothers.

Most of the studies have presented those particular strains of CBD oil do reduce nausea and increases appetite, which is a useful help to increase the calorie consumption of a breastfeeding mother.

Additionally, the multiple times of waking up in the night to feed your baby significantly affect getting a night of decent sleep. CBD oil is also proven to give better sleep quality and also fights insomnia. Also, CBD oil reduces cortisol production; it’s a hormone that’s caused by stress and could stop you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Is CBD oil safe during pregnancy?

Moms around the world love the many benefits of using CBD; they like that it is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, and also has antidepressant properties. Moms are sipping CBD cocktails instead of wine to ease their aching muscles, and they soak in a bathtub filled with CBD bath bombs.

Some clinical evidence also shows the capabilities of CBD to suppress nausea and vomiting, which are common symptoms experienced by pregnant women. That’s why it is not surprising that many expectant mothers use CBD products.

Experts like ob-gyns are hesitant to recommend the use of CBD during pregnancy because of the limited research about the subject and for the fact that cannabinoids are bad for mothers and babies.

Maggie Frank, the National Educator for PlusCBD oil and also a mother, says, “The concern with phytocannabinoid/CBD supplementation and pregnancy is due to the unknown,” Frank notes. “We currently don’t have long-term research as to what happens years down the road as a result of utilizing hemp extracts in utero. Any woman using phytocannabinoids products should be aware of this and make her decision accordingly, preferably with her doctor.”

On the other hand, Felice Gersh, MD, an ob-gyn and also the founder/director of Integrative Medical Practice of Irvine in California, supports the concerns of experts towards CBD use for pregnant women because of insufficient data and “the fact that production is poorly regulated in most states.” And as it remains unclear, she always tells her expecting patients to stay away from any CBD products.

The political, scientific, and social turn of events could eventually change the experts’ point of view towards CBD usage on pregnant women. For now, women both pregnant and breastfeeding are advised to talk and consult their physician to come up with the best and safest treatment plan before taking a CBD product.