Pregnancy comes with its share of discomforts. There’s the well-known nausea and vomiting, often during the first trimester, then there are other possible symptoms, including stress and anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, heartburn, hemorrhoids, skin changes, and muscle aches and pains, particularly back pain.
Cannabidiol (CBD) might be able to help with some of these symptoms, but is it safe to use when you’re pregnant?
Pregnant Women Have to be Extra Cautious
Pregnant women have to be cautious about what they put in and on their bodies while they’re pregnant. A developing fetus can be very vulnerable to the effects of numerous compounds, including alcohol, caffeine, bacteria, and heavy metals like mercury and lead. They may also be vulnerable to effects from certain chemicals like bisphenol-A and formaldehyde, which can be found in some everyday products.
Exposure to even a small amount of any of these things could put a fetus’s health at risk, which is why pregnant women are usually cautioned to avoid raw meat and shellfish, fish with high levels of mercury (swordfish, shark, king mackerel), raw eggs, alcohol, and caffeine. They’re also told to avoid taking medications without talking to their doctors first and to stay away from products that may have heavy metals in them, like wet paint.
It makes sense, then, that pregnant women would be concerned about CBD. Is it safe to use?
Is It Safe to Use CBD Oil During Pregnancy?
The U.S. Surgeon General recently advised consumers that marijuana use during pregnancy may affect fetal brain development because THC can enter the fetal brain from the mother’s bloodstream. Research suggests that mothers using THC during pregnancy may be increasing the risk of a newborn with a low birth rate, premature birth, or stillbirth.
That’s THC though. What about CBD?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “strongly advises against” the use of CBD, THC, or any other form of cannabis during pregnancy. The agency states that there “may be serious risks” to using these products.
However, at the same time, the FDA also notes that there is “no comprehensive research” studying the effects of CBD on the developing fetus or pregnant mother. It continues to collect and study the data, but it states that “based on what we do know, there is significant cause for concern.” Currently, the FDA’s main concern about CBD right now, however, appears to be that it has the potential to be contaminated with other substances that may present a greater risk to the fetus. For example, the American Pregnancy Association re-iterates the lack of information around CBD and pregnancy.
“There is no comprehensive research studying the effects of CBD on the developing fetus, pregnant mother, or breastfed baby. The FDA is continuing to collect and study the data on the possible harmful effects of CBD during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.”
The Quality of the CBD Product Matters During Pregnancy
One of the possibilities is that a CBD product may be contaminated with THC. If the manufacturer is not extremely careful when creating its products and does not guarantee the product to be completely THC-free, the product may be considered unsafe for use during pregnancy.
The FDA is also aware of some CBD products potentially containing other contaminants like pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and fungus. All of these could present serious risks to a developing fetus. The FDA is continuing to investigate this.
As to how a quality CBD product may affect a pregnant woman and her baby, however, the FDA has few answers because of the lack of data around CBD and pregnancy. As a result, right now it is advising extreme caution. It also acknowledges that what kind of product you’re using may impact the results. Are you applying a CBD rub or lotion, for instance, or vaping a CBD solution? One may be safer than another.
Does CBD Oil Help with Nausea When Pregnant?
Despite the FDA’s warnings, many moms are using CBD during pregnancy when seeking relief from a variety of symptoms. These include morning sickness, stress and anxiety, sleeplessness, and aches, pains, and cramps.
We do have research suggesting that CBD may help with many of these symptoms. In 2011, for instance, scientists reported that CBD suppresses nausea and vomiting within a limited dose range and that it may be effective in treating nausea and vomiting produced by chemotherapy.
A recent 2021 study also showed that cannabis flowers and concentrates are effective in relieving the symptoms of nausea—96 percent of the participants reported symptom relief.
Still, you’d be wise to wait until we know more. In a new study published in the journal Clinical Epigenetics, researchers at the University of Minnesota found that CBD use during pregnancy “may affect mood and cognition in offspring long after the exposure has ceased,” according to the research brief.
The offspring of mothers exposed to CBD had hundreds of genes in their brains that were affected—genes involved in the formation of new neurons and synapses, and diseases like autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, and substance use disorder.
“We were surprised at the extent that CBD-linked gene pathways were associated with neurological disorders,” said study co-author Nicole Wanner, “and expect future work will be needed to understand how fetal exposure to CBD impacts long-term brain function and mental health.”
If you’re pregnant and thinking about trying CBD to potentially alleviate symptoms like anxiety, insomnia or fatigue, or aches and pains, the best course of action is to discuss it with your OB-GYN before trying any new supplements or medications.