Is CBD Safe During Pregnancy?
Over the past several years, cannabidiol (CBD) has gained a lot of attention as a remedy for many common ailments, such as nausea, anxiety, and insomnia. With an increase in the number of states legalizing marijuana and various social movements normalizing its use, many questions have surfaced regarding the safety of CBD – a cannabinoid derived from the cannabis plant – during pregnancy.
So, is CBD safe to use during pregnancy? To alleviate the nausea that many expecting people experience during the process? To use postpartum for anxiety, stress, or to assist in rebalancing hormones? The unanimous answer is: NO, CBD is not safe to use during pregnancy or when breastfeeding. While research is ongoing and some results are inconclusive, the current medical opinion is that CBD should not be considered safe to use for expecting parents.
What Exactly Is CBD?
CBD is one of the hundreds of chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD and other cannabinoids found in the plant interact with our endocannabinoid molecules and our cannabinoid receptors, which is how the chemicals affect so many physiologic functions, such as the modulation of inflammation and pain.
Many people are confused about the difference between tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD. Historically, THC has carried with it the negative connotation of “getting high.” Indeed, this chemical is responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana and both CBD and THC are found in the cannabis plant. However, CBD does not have the same properties as THC and will not lead to intoxication.
Expert Opinions On CBD Use During Pregnancy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Marijuana use during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby’s health. The chemicals in marijuana (in particular, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) pass through your system, [past the placental barrier] to your baby and can harm your baby’s development.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that cannabis use during pregnancy is associated with impaired fetal development, often leading to lower birth weight. Use during pregnancy may also increase the risk of rare forms of cancer.
In 2017, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released its opinion statement on marijuana use and pregnancy. The informative report includes recommendations for women who are pregnant and contemplating pregnancy to discontinue marijuana use. While there are insufficient data to definitively conclude whether or not any cannabinoids are safe during breastfeeding and lactation, ACOG discourages their use in the absence of such research.
What Does the Evidence Say?
When it comes to women’s health, CBD carries many beneficial properties that earn it a spot in one’s daily routine. Whether you are young or old, CBD can assist you with symptoms during your period (read: cramps) and symptoms of menopause (e.g. hot flashes, hormonal imbalances, etc.). Additionally, in a recent study of women with endometriosis, CBD was ranked as one of the most effective tools to reduce pain associated with the condition.
CBD has not been studied independently to evaluate its effects on fertility, during pregnancy, or in the postnatal period when many people choose to breastfeed. Because of this lack of research and data, experts recommend that CBD is unsafe to use.
However, current research has found associations between marijuana and troubling pre- and post-natal conditions, such as:
- Low birth weight and preterm delivery – mainly as a function of tobacco use and marijuana use during pregnancy;
- Increased chances of fetal developmental issues as a result of inhaling chemicals when smoking;
- More difficulty paying attention and learning as a child;
- Increased likelihood of infant anemia;
- An increased likelihood of babies requiring placement in neonatal intensive (NICU) care;
- Potential for impaired higher-order executive functions, such as impulse control, as a child.
The data that we do have on using marijuana and CBD during pregnancy applies to all of their forms. While people may assume that smoking high-CBD cannabis is more dangerous than CBD tinctures due to the circulation of smoke, CBD oil in tincture form, CBD in topical patches and/or skin care products, and CBD in edibles can penetrate the placental barrier of a developing baby and be passed through breast milk to a baby when breastfeeding.
While most published research studies reference “marijuana use” as a major risk factor, pregnant women, those considering becoming pregnant, and those persons hoping to breastfeed should be aware that CBD is a part of the cannabis plant and may lead to similar outcomes in babies. Using CBD, or other naturally occurring cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, during pregnancy has not been studied extensively, which is the major reason why health professionals and professional organizations must advise against using CBD while pregnant or breastfeeding.
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