Your pregnancy is over. Everything went well. The baby is healthy and now you’re busy taking care of that new little bundle of joy.
That doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, though. You may be struggling with some aches and pains, fatigue, and insomnia. You might also be suffering from a low mood or postpartum depression.
You’ve heard about other moms using CBD (cannabidiol) to help with some of these issues. There’s just one problem: you’re breastfeeding. Is it safe to use CBD while breastfeeding?
CBD May Help Reduce Symptoms of Depression
We have some evidence that CBD can help counter depression and anxiety. In a 2014 animal study, researchers found that CBD had an anti-anxiety and antidepressant effect, interacting with receptors in the brain to boost mood.
In a later 2019 animal study, CBD again showed antidepressant-like effects. The animals were more likely to engage in pleasurable activities after consuming it.
According to PostpartumDepression.org, about 70-80 percent of women will experience, at minimum, the “baby blues.” The reported rate of clinical postpartum depression is between 10-20 percent. Yet we have few studies on CBD in depressed human subjects.
There was one published in 2018. Participants reported a 50 percent reduction in depression and a 58 percent reduction in anxiety and stress following cannabis use. High CBD (<9.5 percent)/low THC (<5.5 percent) was associated with the largest changes in depression and stress ratings.
Is CBD A Good Alternative Treatment for Postpartum Depression?
If you talk to your doctor about the baby blues or postpartum depression, you may wind up with a prescription for antidepressants. That is the standard treatment, but some moms don’t want to take medication or deal with the side effects. Besides, antidepressants can be risky too.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that antidepressants “may” be safe to take while breastfeeding, but that moms should talk to their doctors about the potential benefits and risks.
Might CBD be an alternative?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against the use of CBD or any form of cannabis while breastfeeding. The agency notes that there is no comprehensive research studying the effects of CBD on a breastfed baby. It’s continuing to study the data.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the National Academies for Science, Engineering and Medicine also discourage the use of cannabis while breastfeeding.
That’s probably because, in some animal studies, high doses of CBD have been linked with reproductive problems in the offspring. Some CBD products may also contain contaminants that could be harmful to an infant—like pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and fungi.
Most doctors agree that we just don’t know enough yet about whether CBD is safe to take while breastfeeding. Dr. Felice Gersh, speaking to Parents magazine, warned that powerful plants can impact “all aspects of the baby’s development,” and that it’s unknown what the long-term effects may be when a nursing mom uses CBD.
The Issue of THC in a CBD Product
One of the major worries for breastfeeding mothers is that there may be some THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in a CBD product. According to the FDA, we already know that using THC while pregnant can harm a newborn’s development. It can increase the risk that a newborn will have a low birth weight, and may also increase the risk for premature birth and stillbirth.
We also know that THC can pass through breastmilk to the infant where it may cause harm. Negative effects on brain development could result in hyperactivity, poor cognitive function, and other long-term consequences.
But what if you get a pure, CBD-only product? The FDA still suggests caution, stating that we just don’t know enough yet to be sure how CBD alone may affect an infant.
Choosing CBD Products for Breastfeeding Mothers
There are a few reasons why moms may want to explore using CBD postpartum, including:
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Improve sleep quality
- Boost mood
- Reduce back and joint pain
If, after talking to your doctor, you believe the benefits are worth the risk, be sure to use only THC-free, organic CBD products. Buy from reliable manufacturers that have their products tested by independent parties, and use the products in moderation.
As with any supplements, you should discuss taking CBD while breastfeeding with your healthcare provider. Your doctor can advise you whether CBD may interact with any medications you may be taking and whether CBD is a good option to try for the symptoms you’re experiencing. The bottom line is that we simply don’t know enough yet about whether it’s safe to use CBD while breastfeeding, although enough research may eventually provide more clarity.