Research suggests that CBD could relieve nausea, but is it effective and safe for morning sickness? Here's our complete guide. Studies present scientific evidence about how CBD oil may help relieve pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, and other pregnancy-related issues. Learn more.
Is CBD Oil Good for Morning Sickness? [Is It Safe?]
Morning sickness has become one of the most dreaded side effects of pregnancy. It’s unpredictability, yet constant prevalence, has led many women to seek relief from its discomfort. But most importantly, every expectant mother’s first concern is for the safety and wellbeing of their unborn child.
So, is CBD oil a viable option for easing morning sickness symptoms? And what are the risks associated with using it? Find out in this overview.
What Is Morning Sickness?
According to recent studies, between 70 – 80% of women experience morning sickness during pregnancy. This equates to between 4,000,000 and 350,000 women each year in Canada and the United States alone. So it’s surprising that its cause still remains contentious within the medical community.
Many medical professionals believe that morning sickness is the body’s reaction to excess amounts of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). During the first trimester of pregnancy, the placenta forms and produces hCG in order to maintain a healthy pregnancy. However, by doing so, hCG also stimulates the maternal ovaries to secrete estrogen. And it is this which can cause feelings of nausea.
Morning sickness typically occurs from the 6th week of pregnancy until the 12th week, when high levels of hCG are produced in the body. Despite the name, morning sickness has no temporal preference and can actually happen during any time of the day.
Morning Sickness Symptoms
For most pregnant women, morning sickness can be described as feelings of nausea, which may or may not result in physical vomiting. However, other less-known symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
What’s most curious about morning sickness is that women can develop triggers to these symptoms. From smelling cat food to the sound of traffic, these triggers can be unusual and unique. Some of the most common triggers include;
- Spicy foods
- Variations in heat
- Particular smells
- Physical and mental fatigue
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
Many of these factors are impossible to avoid in day to day life. In addition, lots of women experience no triggers at all, making morning sickness feel largely uncontrollable.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) Symptoms
In worst-case scenarios, pregnant women can experience an extreme form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Pregnant women with HG may find themselves experiencing severe symptoms of morning sickness. For instance, they might feel dizzy, confused, and lightheaded. Other symptoms may include:
Similar to morning sickness, many studies highlight that a rapid increase in the hormone hCG contributes to HG. Factors such as estrogen levels and progesterone early in pregnancy may also contribute to the condition. However, much like morning sickness, the exact cause remains ambiguous.
Severe HG may result in hospitalization. So, individuals experiencing any extreme morning sickness symptoms should visit a doctor immediately.
Traditional Remedies for Morning Sickness
Unfortunately, there are no steadfast remedies for combating morning sickness. This is mostly due to differing hormone levels, symptoms, and triggers in pregnant women. However, there are a variety of lifestyle changes pregnant women often use to dispel symptoms. These include:
- Avoid nausea triggers
- Eat food high in carbohydrates and low in fat
- Get lots of rest
- Stay hydrated
- Anti-sickness medicine (an antiemetic)
It’s worth noting that antiemetic or ginger supplements should always come at the recommendation of a doctor.
With so many suggested remedies, naturally, CBD has become a discussed alternative. But how could it help?
Could CBD Be Beneficial for Morning Sickness?
Despite the long list of symptoms associated with morning sickness, the most prevalent continues to be nausea. It’s common for pregnant women to be prescribed medication such as prochlorperazine to combat this. However, prochlorperazine can result in its own list of symptoms, which may include anxiety and insomnia.
Could CBD be an alternative? Well, cannabidiol has long been considered as a possible antiemetic. Some studies have found that nausea and vomiting can be suppressed through the manipulation of the endocannabinoid system. This biological system is made up of cannabinoid receptors that interact with different chemical compounds, including CBD. One group of receptors, in the somatodendritic region, may be the key to minimizing feels of nausea.
There’s no denying that experiencing severe morning sickness symptoms can induce a lot of stress for an expecting mother. This is never a good combination. However, some medical research demonstrates CBD decreasing levels of anxiety.
Studies like this one show a promising correlation between CBD and anxiety disorders, not just by improving short-term anti-compulsive actions but long-term anxiogenic effects of stress. This could be due to cannabidiol preventing the overstimulation of receptors within the endocannabinoid system. However, this is still based on theory.
CBD seems like it could be beneficial for many morning sickness symptoms. But it’s worth noting that there are very few studies that look at the relationship between the two directly.
Is It Safe to Use CBD Oil for Morning Sickness?
To make a long answer short, nobody knows yet. While CBD is considered a safe and effective remedy for many conditions and symptoms, it remains a contentious choice for pregnant women. You’ll find that many medical professionals, including physicians and gynecologists, will advise against using CBD. This is in large due to a lack of research, rather than any known dangers.
You may also find a conservative approach from CBD distributors themselves, with pregnancy warnings on oil and topical labels. If you do want to use CBD, it’s essential to consider where you are buying it. Whether you want oils or topicals, always buy from a transparent and trusted brand. Similarly, it’s a good idea for you to check full ingredient lists before purchasing a product, to ensure you aren’t consuming any harmful or unnecessary chemicals.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil and Morning Sickness
While often a happy process, pregnancy can create a lot of physical and emotional stress for an expecting mother. And morning sickness is just one example of this.
In theory, CBD could be used as an antiemetic to prevent or subdue morning sickness symptoms, specifically nausea. However, there is simply not enough long-term data to determine accurate benefits and risks. Understandably medical professionals are taking a strict stance on CBD, especially with an unborn life involved.
If you remain curious about using CBD while pregnant, it’s essential to consult with your physician or doctor first.
CBD Oil and Morning Sickness – September 2022
Why Some Women May Be Thinking of Taking CBD During Pregnancy
There are studies that present scientific evidence about how CBD oil may help relieve pain , anxiety, depression , nausea , and other pregnancy-related issues.
The 2011 study that was conducted on animals demonstrates the regulation of nausea and vomiting by the manipulation of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) ( 2 ) .
The results of the aforementioned study revealed the antiemetic effects of cannabinoids in response to a toxic challenge. Cannabidiol (CBD), the primary non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, was shown to suppress nausea and vomiting within a limited dose range.
However, there has been no long-term scientific research on humans exploring the efficacy and safety of CBD oil, as well as risks and side effects of CBD use in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Neither is there a study that proves that maternal CBD during pregnancy is dangerous to either mother or baby, or both. As with all medications during pregnancy, risk/benefit discussions need to be discussed with a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ACOG, and the U.S. General Surgeon have warned women against using marijuana and its byproducts, including medical marijuana, during pregnancy.
According to a 2005 study published in the journal Canadian Family Physician , as a baby’s brain is still forming, THC may affect brain development ( 3 ) .
A 2018 clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that THC , a psychoactive cannabis compound, crosses the placenta and is excreted into breast milk in small quantities ( 4 ) .
CBD is not the same as marijuana. However, the studies mentioned above show how marijuana can affect the baby’s brain and the mother’s milk.
Lack of Research on CBD Use During Pregnancy
Most experts are hesitant to recommend CBD to pregnant women despite the positive anecdotal reports that abound on CBD use during pregnancy. The hesitation comes entirely from the limited research available on the topic.
The lack of pregnancy-specific research is typical when it comes to health supplements. Still, many supplements that are believed to be safe and effective are generally avoided due to the lack of substantial evidence to support their safe use.
There are several possible reasons why research on CBD use during pregnancy is lacking:
- It is difficult to get research on pregnant patients approved.
The research parameters of any study or investigation, especially on human subjects, requires the approval of a professional ethics board known as Investigational Review Boards. These boards are strict when it comes to pregnancy and would often deny any research requests if a substance has not been proven safe in non-pregnant people through other studies.
- The complexity of pregnancy makes it challenging to account for all the variables of the study.
Pregnancy is a complex chemical process that affects women differently. Every pregnancy is a unique experience, and the symptoms may be different for each pregnancy, as well.
Thus, a supplement or remedy that could work with one pregnant woman might not work for another. This variable makes it difficult to interpret the data into something conclusive.
- The best research takes place over extended periods and often involves a large number of participants or sample size.
Clinical studies for determining the safety of a health supplement like CBD often needs to be done over several years. This process is tedious and expensive.
A single double-blind, randomized clinical trial can cost several million dollars and at least ten years to complete. Some institutions may pay for research like this. However, as of yet, no group has studied the effects of CBD alone on pregnancy.
Relief from nausea and vomiting is one of the many reasons why a pregnant mother may want to try CBD. There are anecdotal reports that promote CBD as a remedy for typical pregnancy symptoms, such as headaches, muscle cramping, abdominal pain, insomnia, anxiety, and nausea.
Still, there is no evidence to support the safety of maternal CBD use during pregnancy. Neither are there studies available to prove or disprove the safety of this compound on the developing fetus.
Considering the lack of research and clinical trials on CBD oil and pregnancy, most physicians, gynecologists, and other healthcare providers tend to dissuade pregnant women from using CBD products unless standard remedies fail for intractable nausea and vomiting of pregnancy known as hyperemesis gravidarum.
What is Morning Sickness?
Morning sickness is also referred to as nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP). It is a common medical condition that affects 50% to 80% of pregnant women.
NVP can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life, whether its symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe.
NVP indications can vary from mild to severe and can happen at any time during the day or night. Symptoms can include retching, which may or may not be accompanied by vomiting, nausea, and dry heaves.
NVP typically manifests between the 4 and 9 weeks of pregnancy, and peaks between 7 and 12 weeks. In most cases, symptoms go away when a woman’s pregnancy reaches between 12 and 16 weeks. However, up to 15% of women continue to have symptoms until the 20th week of pregnancy or until the baby’s delivery.
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is the most severe type of NVP, and it affects up to 3% of pregnant women. HG is a medical condition characterized by severe nausea and constant vomiting, which leads to dehydration and weight loss . Women with HG may require hospitalization.
If NVP is affecting a pregnant woman’s ability to sleep, eat, and perform her daily activities, a consultation with her healthcare provider is advisable.
NVP symptoms that first start at the 10th week of pregnancy or later may be due to other causes. They should be discussed with a medical professional as well.
NVP Due to Medical Conditions Other Than Pregnancy
Up to 85% of pregnant women experience symptoms, such as burping, burning pain in the chest, belching, burping, or nausea. Most of these symptoms manifest during the first trimester of pregnancy.
However, some NVP symptoms may be indications of other medical conditions like heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux. In some cases, the symptoms are caused by Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial infection that has been linked to HG.
Experts recommend testing for this bacterium, especially for women with a history of severe HG or NVP. A woman who is positive for this bacterium can be treated during her pregnancy.
CBD as Anti-Nausea
In a 2018 review , the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that CBD is generally well-tolerated with an excellent safety profile, and adverse effects may be a result of drug-drug interactions between CBD and a patient’s existing medications ( 5 ) .
As an antiemetic, CBD may also be an effective cure for both nausea and vomiting produced by chemotherapy or other therapeutic treatments, as indicated in a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology ( 6 ) .
A study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology in 2015 demonstrates how CBD controls nausea by influencing the serotonin receptors ( 7 ) .
The results of the same study also suggest that CBD decreases the release of serotonin, reducing the body’s stimulation of the vomiting controls in the brain.
CBD may come in the form of an edible , tincture, or salve, and they may either be ingested or applied topically.
Marijuana for Morning Sickness: Is it Safe?
Studies on the use of CBD for morning sickness may be lacking and inconclusive, but can marijuana help with morning sickness?
Marijuana plants and hemp plants are different varieties of the Cannabis sativa species. Both varieties contain varying amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
If the hemp plant contains over 0.3 percent THC, it is technically considered a marijuana plant.
Marijuana is a cannabis plant that contains substantial amounts of THC, which is the psychoactive component primarily responsible for inducing a euphoric and intoxicating effect on the user.
Marijuana’s recreational, as well as medicinal use, continues to gain widespread and legal support in the United States. The substance has also been proposed as a potential treatment for hyperemesis gravidarum.
A 2014 study , which was conducted by researchers from the Hawai’i State Department of Health in Honolulu, HI, found that women who reported marijuana use during pregnancy were more likely to report experiencing severe nausea and vomiting compared with those not experiencing these severe symptoms ( 8 ) .
In the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, a 2006 survey of medicinal cannabis use among childbearing women was presented. The survey assessed the patterns of cannabis use in pregnancy and efficacy against morning sickness ( 9 ) .
Results of the above-mentioned survey revealed that 51% of the women using marijuana during their pregnancy reported using it for the relief of nausea and vomiting, and 92% of those women reported that marijuana was effective for those symptoms.
While the use of marijuana is being hailed on social media as a safe and effective treatment of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP), there are no known implications or recommendations at this time for its use during pregnancy. ACOG reiterated this fact in its Committee Opinion in 2015 ( 10 ) .
Interestingly, none of the states with legal medicinal marijuana laws list pregnancy as a contraindication for recommending or dispensing medicinal marijuana.
Marijuana Use and Pregnancy: What Research Says
CBD is different from marijuana, but when dealing with morning sickness, both are not recommended by experts.
In a clinical report published in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) journal, researchers provided data on the prevalence of marijuana use among pregnant and lactating women. Several state-specific surveys revealed that the rate of marijuana use among pregnant women is on the rise, and the results elicit serious concerns ( 11 ) .
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that women who are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant should avoid cannabis use. The agency says that chemicals in marijuana, specifically tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cause many health complications in newborn babies, including still or low birth weight.
CDC cited several research and studies that reiterate how marijuana passes through one’s system and harm the baby’s development.
The research was conducted in 2011 by doctors from the Cain Foundation Laboratories, Jan & Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital. They examined the lasting impacts of prenatal cannabis exposure (PME) demonstrates that prenatally cannabis-exposed children exhibit cognitive deficits, which implies that maternal cannabis consumption has hindered the proper maturation of the baby’s brain ( 12 ) .
In another 21011 study on PME, with data collected between 1982 and 1985, researchers found a relationship between PME and delinquent behavior ( 13 ) . The results were published in the Neurotoxicology and Teratology Journal.
The researchers concluded that an intervention to stop marijuana use during pregnancy would decrease the rates of delinquency in the offspring and may help children with high levels of depressive symptoms or attention deficits.
Pediatric Research published a 2012 study that examined the association between cannabis use before and during pregnancy and birth outcomes. Results showed that cannabis use in pregnancy was associated with low birth weight, preterm labor, admission to the neonatal intensive care unit, and small for gestational age ( 14 ) .
“We have to get behind the message that marijuana is on the same level as smoking or alcohol use during pregnancy. We already recommend no safe amount of tobacco during pregnancy, no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. We should be recommending no safe level of marijuana during pregnancy.”
—Nathaniel G. DeNicola, MD, MSc, University of Pennsylvania Social Media & Health Innovation Lab
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) also recommends that marijuana use should be avoided during pregnancy, claiming that THC can pass through the placenta, causing developmental problems. THC permeates quickly into the placenta, blood, liver, brain, and breast milk and also clears quickly from these tissues.
Nathaniel G. DeNicola, MD, MSc of the University of Pennsylvania Social Media and Health Innovation Lab, said that marijuana is on a similar level as smoking or alcohol use during pregnancy.
He explained further that there is no recommended safe amount of tobacco or alcohol during pregnancy, and there is also no recommended safe level of marijuana when pregnant.
According to DeNicol, there is some evidence of decreased fetal growth, low IQ scores, attention problems, and reduced cognitive function in children exposed to marijuana in utero.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H., delivered an advisory on the health risks related to marijuana use in adolescence and during pregnancy.
He urged physicians and health care professionals to educate the youth and pregnant women about the potential dangers of marijuana on the developing brains of infants and adolescents.
“No amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is known to be safe… Until and unless more is known about the long-term impact, the safest choice for pregnant women and adolescents is not to use marijuana.”
—U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. James Lozada, an OB/GYN anesthesiologist at Northwestern University, believes that CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors differently from THC.
Dr. Lozada is concerned because the said receptors impact neonatal fetal brain development. Thus, he cautions women to take a safe approach by entirely avoiding CBD use.
The same sentiments are held by Dr. Talitha Bruney, medical director for the Comprehensive Family Care Center, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health at Montefiore Health System. She is worried about the unregulated nature of the CBD oil industry, saying that there are no consistent formulations of CBD oil, as well as no firm guidelines on the delivery form and recommended dosage.
In BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology Journal, a 2016 study on mice shows that THC inhibits the development of embryonic cells. While cannabis exposure in utero has been connected to early pregnancy failure, congenital abnormalities, and developmental delay, the mechanisms of such outcomes are mostly unexplained ( 15 ) .
Researchers of the above-mentioned study also found that anandamide hinders the development of embryo cells.
Anandamide, a fatty acid neurotransmitter, plays an essential role in the endocannabinoid system. In the body, it performs similarly to the cannabinoids, activating the endocannabinoid system so it can maintain homeostasis. Anandamide is vital in thought processes, memory , and control of movement.
A 2017 review by Eugene Scharf of the Department of Neurology in Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, showed that CBD increases anandamide levels ( 16 ) .
Some Exceptions: CBD Oil on a Positive Perspective
Given the warnings from reputable organizations, along with results from studies that suggest adverse prenatal and neonatal outcomes linked to marijuana use during pregnancy, one may be inclined to conclude that any CBD oil product containing a significant amount of THC is unsafe for pregnancy.
However, as the existing body of research is limited, the question of whether CBD oil use for pregnancy is safe or not may be subject to debate for most people.
In a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2016, scientists found that using CBD-rich cannabis to cure acute and chronic symptoms during pregnancy did not result in significant adverse neonatal outcomes unless there were other risk factors such as cigarette smoking ( 17 ) .
Researchers believe that the association between maternal marijuana use and adverse outcomes are due to related tobacco use, indicating that CBD oil and marijuana use cannot be blamed solely for any unfavorable pregnancy consequences.
Medical researcher and Medical Marijuana, Inc. president Dr. Stuart Titus, Ph.D., explained the science behind CBD’s benefits and the body’s cannabinoid system.
According to Dr. Titus, CBD helps with the development of healthy brain cells. He also confirms that he has seen pregnant mothers thrive on CBD-rich diets and give birth to healthy babies.
The leading researcher also added that physicians and obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYNs) do not recommend CBD oil use during pregnancy due to a lack of conclusive, longitudinal human studies on the subject.
Given that long-term studies and extensive research on the effects of CBD oil use on the fetus are not currently available, experts advise pregnant women to consult with their doctors before using CBD during their pregnancy.
Morning Sickness Remedies
Morning sickness can be debilitating, and frequent vomiting can lead to dehydration, which is dangerous for both the mother and baby. Most pregnant mothers are not too keen on taking pharmaceuticals that may cause adverse side effects.
Experts advise women looking to relieve morning sickness to try the following lifestyle and home remedies.
- Carefully select foods. Choose foods that are easy to digest, rich in protein, and low in fat.
Avoid foods that are seasoned with too much spice or cooked in too much oil. Bland foods like rice, bananas, applesauce, and toast are good options, and they are easy to digest.
Salty foods, as well as foods that contain ginger, are sometimes helpful.
- Snack frequently. An empty stomach can make nausea worse. Nibbling on small quantities of food throughout the day, rather than eating three large meals can help prevent nausea.
- Increase fluid intake. Sip water or ginger ale, and aim for at least six cups of non-caffeinated beverages daily.
- Avoid nausea triggers. One should keep away from foods or smells that seem to make nausea worse. Breathe fresh air as much as possible.
- Take prenatal vitamins with caution. Taking the vitamins with a light snack or before bed may help one to avoid feeling nauseous.
Alternative Medicine for Morning Sickness
Several alternative remedies have been suggested for morning sickness, including:
- Acupressure. Results of a 1994 study , which was published by the National Institutes of Health, indicate that acupressure at the PC-6 anatomical site is effective in reducing the symptoms of nausea but not the frequency of vomiting in pregnant women ( 18 ) .
Acupressure wristbands may be purchased without a prescription in most pharmacies. Makers of wristbands say the products work to relieve nausea by applying pressure to the point on the inside of the wrist, stimulating the nerves and sending interfering signals to the brain that may disrupt the nausea signals.
Reviews on acupressure wristbands have had mixed results, but some women seem to find the wristbands helpful.
- Acupuncture. In a 1997 review published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found clear evidence that needle acupuncture is effective for adult post-operation and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and probably for the nausea of pregnancy ( 19 ) .
- Ginger. Ginger supplements may help alleviate morning sickness for some women. Research led by Mengjian Ding from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Queensland in Australia in 2013 suggests that ginger is a safe and effective treatment for pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting (PNV) (20 ) .
- Hypnosis. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the Advanced Practitioner in Oncology examined the use of hypnosis for the management of anticipatory nausea and vomiting (ANV) (2 1 ) . Results show that the safety and efficacy of hypnosis are well established.
- Aromatherapy. Although there is limited research on the topic, certain scents, using essential oils (aromatherapy), can help some women deal with morning sickness
Results of a 2014 review published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal suggest that lemon scent can be useful in reducing nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (22 ) .
Moderate to severe NVP may lead to dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes, such as sodium or potassium, putting the health of both mother and baby at risk.
A consultation with a doctor, such as an OB-GYN, is one’s best course of action when dealing with nausea. Doctors can recommend a safe option based on the severity of one’s symptoms.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly advise pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to avoid marijuana altogether.
Experts do not consider CBD oil safe for use during pregnancy, as CBD products may still contain trace amounts of THC.
There are not enough studies on the use of CBD during pregnancy. Its effects on mothers and babies are still unknown.
Thus, most health professionals recommend that pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and those contemplating pregnancy not to use CBD.