CBD has been hailed as a remedy for health issues including pain, digestive issues, and insomnia. Could it be the answer to the common symptoms of pregnancy? Find out why this isn’t the case. CBD Oil and Pregnancy: Safety & Efficacy For Maternity Pregnancy can be both a beautiful and uncomfortable experience. Many expecting mothers experience cramping, insomnia, anxiety, morning More moms are turning to therapeutic products made with CBD, or cannabidiol, and some swear it helped offer relief while they were expecting. Here's what these moms—and experts—say about CBD during pregnancy.
CBD and Pregnancy: What You Should Know
If you’re having pregnancy symptoms, maybe you’ve wondered if CBD (cannabidiol) can bring you relief. CBD is a compound in marijuana and hemp that doesn’t get you high. And products with CBD in it are becoming more and more popular. Manufacturers use it in things like foods, drinks, beauty products, and supplements.
Some pregnant women consider using CBD for symptoms like:
or vomiting from morning sickness or stress
It’s a bad idea to take CBD for any of these reasons, though. The FDA urges women not to use cannabis or any type of CBD product while pregnant or breastfeeding. It could be dangerous for you and your baby.
Why It’s Risky
For one thing, we need a lot more research into the effects of CBD on pregnant mothers and unborn babies. Experts mainly have animal studies to go on. For instance, researchers who gave pregnant test animals high doses of CBD noticed problems in the reproductive systems of male fetuses. That doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing would happen in people, but the FDA says it’s concerned by the finding.
It’s also possible for CBD products to be contaminated with things that could be dangerous for a developing or nursing baby, like THC. That’s the chemical in cannabis that gets you high. Experts advise all women to avoid THC while pregnant and breastfeeding. It may affect a baby’s brain development in the womb. It can also raise the chances of stillbirth or premature birth. THC can pass to an infant through breast milk, and experts think this can happen with CBD as well.
The FDA has gotten reports of CBD products possibly being contaminated with other things, like:
- Heavy metals
What’s more, studies show that CBD poses risks for everyone, like liver damage and extreme sleepiness. It could also hurt your health by affecting medications you take.
Approved Uses for CBD
It has one approved medical use: a prescription drug that treats certain rare, severe types of seizure disorders in kids.
Otherwise, the FDA doesn’t review supplements like it does medications. So if you see a CBD pill, oil, capsule, or liquid with a package that makes health claims, be skeptical of its promises. And don’t take it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re having pregnancy symptoms, ask your doctor or OB-GYN for a safer treatment instead.
In general, don’t take a new supplement without talking to your doctor first. They can let you know whether it’s likely to be safe and effective for you.
FDA: “What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding,” “FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy.”
UCLA: “Looking for relief, pregnant women turn to marijuana despite medical advice.”
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Marijuana and Pregnancy.”
CBD Oil and Pregnancy: Safety & Efficacy For Maternity
Pregnancy can be both a beautiful and uncomfortable experience. Many expecting mothers experience cramping, insomnia, anxiety, morning sickness, and many more symptoms throughout the course of their pregnancy.
One of the newer and more exciting health supplements to hit the market recently that’s been shown to support many of these symptoms is CBD Oil. This oil is made from one of the active compounds in the hemp plant known as cannabidiol — CBD.
But exactly what is CBD oil? How do you take it, and what effects can it have on your pregnancy? Read on to learn everything you need to know about taking CBD oil during pregnancy.
What is CBD Oil and Is It Safe During Pregnancy?
CBD stands for cannabidiol — one of over 400 different compounds found in the cannabis plant. The chemical structure of CBD is unique in that it closely resembles some of the hormones produced by our body known as the endocannabinoids.
The similarities in the structure of CBD to these hormones allow CBD to interact with the endocannabinoid system — made up of a series of receptors around the human body. This system has many uses but the most important is its role in regulating homeostasis (balance).
This ability to interact with regulatory systems like the endocannabinoid system is what gives CBD so many health benefits. Instead of working through just one organ, it’s able to interact with organs all around the body.
CBD has been shown to support muscle relaxation (such as cramping or muscle injuries) , boost immune function , reduce inflammation , block excessive pain transmission from reaching the brain , and regulate the nausea center in the brain to fight morning sickness and other forms of nausea or vomiting .
You can find CBD in many different forms, including capsules, edibles, and oils. Out of all the different types of CBD products, CBD oils are the most popular. They’re easy to use, the dose can be tailored to match your specific needs, and they have a long shelf life.
What’s the Difference Between CBD & THC?
CBD and THC are the two most common compounds in the cannabis plant. Both compounds are similar in structure — they even have the same molecular structure: 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms.
Although similar in structure, CBD and THC each have a very different effect on the body.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in the marijuana plant — it’s what produces the high associated with marijuana use. It works by stimulating the endocannabinoid receptors in the body, activating the release of serotonin, and other neurotransmitters.
CBD, on the other hand, is completely non-psychoactive. It doesn’t activate the endocannabinoid receptors directly, and will instead work indirectly by slowing the breakdown of our naturally occurring endocannabinoids.
It also interacts with other receptors in the body associated with inflammation and the transmission of pain in the spinal cord. Many of the medicinal effects associated with cannabis owe these benefits to the CBD content.
In basic terms — THC makes you high, CBD makes you feel better.
All cannabis plants manufacture both CBD and THC — however, depending on the type of cannabis, the ratios can be radically different. There are big differences between hemp and marijuana plants where CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids are extracted.
Hemp plants, for example, produce almost no THC but will contain high levels of CBD instead.
Marijuana plants (the type people smoke to get high), are the opposite, producing primarily the psychoactive cannabinoid THC and lower levels of CBD.
For the context of this article, the CBD oils we’re talking about are all made from the hemp plant — not marijuana.
Why Are Pregnant Women Taking CBD Oil?
Pregnancy, in all its beauty, places a lot of strain on the body. There are a lot of side-effects pregnant women may experience that can impact daily life — some more severe than others.
For example, a common condition a large number of women experience during pregnancy is hyperemesis gravidarum — excessive morning sickness.
This condition can be debilitating, making it nearly impossible to leave the house when it’s at its worst. Additionally, frequent vomiting can easily result in dehydration — which is dangerous for both the mother and baby.
There are medications available for this condition, but most of them come with their own set of negative side-effects.
One such medication doctors frequently prescribe is called Prochlorperazine. This medication stops the feeling of nausea by acting directly on the nausea center of the brain. The problem is that it also causes side-effects such as insomnia, dizziness, blurred vision, and anxiety. It merely shifts the problem from nausea to something else.
CBD is becoming one of the most popular alternatives to medications like this for expectant mothers. It offers many of the same benefits of reducing nausea symptoms — without the negative side effects.
In fact, CBD actually addresses many of the side-effects anti-nausea medications like Prochlorperazine produce — including anxiety and insomnia.
This is only one example, but there are a number of different reasons why pregnant women are seeking out CBD-infused products to support various symptoms throughout the course of their pregnancy.
The most common reasons pregnant women may want to consider using CBD supplements:
- Sleeping problems and insomnia
- Mood disorders
Are Cannabinoids Safe During Pregnancy?
There are well over 67 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant — only a small handful of which are psychoactive. This includes THC as the primary psychoactive component.
The first thing we need to make crystal clear here is that THC-containing products, like marijuana, are not safe during pregnancy. There’s evidence that suggests smoking marijuana during pregnancy results in a lowered birth-weight and delays in brain development [1, 2].
When we smoke marijuana or use products that contain THC — we have to remember that this compound is going to pass straight through the placental barrier and interact with our baby’s brain.
This goes for most other supplements we take while pregnant. Everything we put into our body will ultimately reach the baby — everything from the food we eat to the air we breathe.
But What About CBD & Other Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids?
There are experts who are hesitant to recommend CBD during pregnancy — but this isn’t because the compound is inherently dangerous in any way — in fact, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence  and preliminary research , indicating that CBD is indeed safe during pregnancy.
The hesitation of CBD comes purely from the lack of research available on the topic.
Currently, there’s no long-term research available in the scientific literature exploring whether CBD oil is safe and effective during pregnancy — However, there isn’t anything that proves this compound is dangerous either.. This is a topic that’s been relatively ignored despite the widespread interest in cannabis research in recent decades.
Without the research to prove that CBD is indeed safe and effective during various stages of pregnancy — most experts will err on the side of caution and avoid it.
This lack of pregnancy-specific research is common when it comes to health supplements. Many supplements thought to be safe and effective are generally avoided anyway simply due to the lack of research.
There Are 3 Good Reasons for This Lack of Research:
1. It’s Hard to Get Research Involving Pregnant Patients Approved
In order to conduct any research, especially on humans, a professional ethics board needs to approve the study parameters. These boards are especially strict when it comes to pregnancy and will often deny any research requests if there hasn’t already been enough proof that the substance is safe through other studies.
2. Pregnancy Makes it Hard to Account for All the Variables of the Study
Pregnancy is a complex chemical process and affects women differently. No pregnancy is alike — we all experience the side-effects differently.
This makes it very hard to study the effects of a supplement like CBD because what might work for one person won’t for another — not because the CBD doesn’t work, but because the causes of that particular symptom might be different from one person to the next. This makes interpreting the data into something meaningful very challenging.
3. Research Takes Place Over Long Periods of Time
The last point we’ll touch here is that the research for determining the safety of a health supplement needs to be done over long periods of time — often several years.
Research like this is tedious and very expensive. A single randomized, double-blind clinical trial can cost several million dollars and take a decade or more to complete.
There are institutions that will pay for research like this, but as of yet, no one has stepped up to take it on for this particular question.
There are simply other areas of interest more important to research at the moment (like some of the exciting clinical trials currently underway exploring the use of CBD with anxiety or other common medical conditions).
On top of that, there simply isn’t any indication that CBD poses any threat to a fetus or pregnant mother as it is. It would be nice to have some rock-solid research behind us to definitively prove it — but there’s a good chance all this time and effort will only prove what we already know — that CBD poses little threat during pregnancy.
There Are Virtually No Indications That CBD is Unsafe During Pregnancy
Despite the lack of research on using CBD during pregnancy, there are virtually no examples of research to draw on that suggest the compound is unsafe.
In an ideal world, you won’t need to take anything during your pregnancy aside from wholesome food and mild herbal teas. However, sometimes you may need relief from the uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy.
CBD is an excellent option to try before escalating to some of the more harmful pharmaceutical options doctors may prescribe in its place.
Women around the world are using CBD to manage spikes in uncomfortable symptoms and avoid using pharmaceutical drugs as much as possible during their pregnancy. This has been going on for years, and I have yet to hear of even one case study to suggest CBD has any significant adverse effects on the mother or the baby.
With that said, there are a few important steps you can take to keep your level of risk to a minimum when using CBD, as well as any other supplement while pregnant.
How to Use CBD Safely While Pregnant?
1. Start Low & Go Slow
When it comes to using health supplements during pregnancy, the key is to start low and slow — meaning that you should always start with the lowest possible dose, and build it up gradually until you reach the recommended dosage.
2. Talk to Your Doctor Before Using CBD
It’s also important to remain transparent with your doctor about any health supplement you plan on taking.
Pregnancy is a complex process, and there are a number of individual factors to consider depending on other medical conditions you may have and what medications you may be taking.
Your doctor has the medical know-how to decide whether CBD is appropriate for your individual case.
3. Keep Notes on Your Doses and Progress
One of the best steps you can take when introducing a new supplement or medication in your health regimen is to take notes of your dose and how you respond to it during the course of the treatment. This will help you and your medical practitioner understand how the CBD or other supplement is working (or not).
Keep Track of Things Like:
- What dose of CBD did you take?
- How did your symptoms feel today?
- Were symptoms improved after taking the CBD?
- Did you experience any side-effects?
- Which CBD product did you take?
5. Only Use High-Quality Products
Many health supplements are unregulated — meaning that virtually anybody can buy the raw materials and put together health supplements. This leaves a lot of room for low-quality products on the market — some of which contain harmful compounds you wouldn’t want to bring anywhere near your baby.
In the case of CBD oils, the biggest problem is the contamination of heavy metals, pesticides, and organic solvents. All of these things can be harmful to the health of your baby.
Luckily, there’s a solution to this issue — which comes in the form of third-party testing.
This is an optional step CBD manufactures can do to prove the quality of the products they produce. A company will send a sample of its batch of products to an independent lab (not connected to the company). This lab will test the sample and provide a detailed analysis of the heavy metal, pesticide, solvent, and organic contaminant contents.
I recommend doing some research before you buy. Look for these third-party tests and make sure they’ve all passed before you buy that particular product.
You may also want to consider using creams during your pregnancy as they are safer than ingestible forms because the CBD doesn’t pass into the bloodstream.
6. Use CBD Products Made from Isolate Only
There are two main types of CBD product available — full-spectrum extracts and CBD isolate.
Full-spectrum extracts contain all the phytochemicals naturally produced in cannabis, while CBD isolate has had all compounds except the CBD removed.
While both options have their own positives and negatives, for pregnancy it’s recommended that you opt for a CBD isolate. These products have removed the other cannabinoids, including THC — which is considered unsafe during pregnancy.
This way you can rest assured the only compound you’re using is the one you planned for — CBD.
How to Use CBD Products (After Pregnancy)?
There are a few different ways you can use CBD oils. Let’s go over the three most common.
1. Oral Ingestion
Most expectant mothers who take CBD oil choose to orally ingest the oil.
This simply involves applying the dropper directly in the mouth and swallowing the oil. Alternatively, you can mix the oil in with a smoothie or other meal to disguise the naturally bitter flavor.
The bottom line is that CBD oil taken this way ends up in the gut where it’s absorbed over the course of about 2 hours into the bloodstream.
CBD oil products can be purchased online from trusted vendors such as CBDistillery, Royal CBD, Charlotte’s Web. They come in a variety of options (ranging from 250mg, 500mg to 1000mg) in the form of tinctures, beverages, edibles, and capsules, which are all easily consumed.
2. Sublingual Administration
“Sublingual” refers to holding something underneath your tongue where the oil and active ingredients are absorbed by the capillaries beneath the tongue.
This means of administration produces effects relatively quickly (within about 15 minutes). Once done, you can simply swallow what’s left of the oil.
This form of administration is best for symptoms that appear suddenly as it allows you to address them in a shorter window of time.
3. Topical Application
You can also use CBD oils topically for things such as skin irritations, inflammation, wounds, and muscle aches. This form of use has far fewer restrictions than other forms of supplementation and is the safest form of administration.
Only a small fraction of the CBD content actually makes its way into the bloodstream when used topically. So you can use higher doses, and you don’t need to be as cautious about monitoring for side-effects.
With that said, this form of administration will only provide relief for symptoms involving the skin and muscles. It won’t do much for any of the systemic effects CBD is suggested to support.
I know many women that use CBD oil topically in this way on the abdomen for cramping and on the lower back to alleviate pain.
Final Thoughts: Using CBD During Pregnancy
There are many reasons why a pregnant mother may want to give CBD a try. This compound is useful for common side-effects experienced by pregnant women — including muscle cramping, abdominal pain, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and nausea.
The safety of CBD during pregnancy is taken with a lot of caution — and with good reason, we don’t have any reliable studies to prove or disprove the safety of this compound on the developing fetus.
We’re caught in a situation where CBD hasn’t been proven safe, nor has it been proven unsafe.
Therefore, the best course of action is to remain cautious when using CBD oil. This is the case with all supplements while pregnant.
Pay attention to how your body responds and be transparent with your doctor about anything you’re taking or thinking of taking while pregnant.
With all of that said, there really isn’t any clear reasons why CBD would pose any danger to yourself or your baby. There have been dozens of studies on the supplement with populations including small children — all of which have concluded that CBD is both a safe and effective supplement for a wide range of symptoms — even at high doses.
- Jaques, S. C., Kingsbury, A., Henschke, P., Chomchai, C., Clews, S., Falconer, J., … & Oei, J. L. (2014). Cannabis, the pregnant woman and her child: weeding out the myths. Journal of Perinatology, 34(6), 417.
- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. National Academies Press.
- Choukèr, A., Kaufmann, I., Kreth, S., Hauer, D., Feuerecker, M., Thieme, D., … & Schelling, G. (2010). Motion sickness, stress and the endocannabinoid system. PloS one, 5(5), e10752.
- Su, J. Y., & Vo, A. C. (2007). 2-Arachidonyl Glyceryl ether and abnormal cannabidiol-induced vascular smooth muscle relaxation in rabbit pulmonary arteries via receptor-pertussis toxin-sensitive G proteins-ERK1/2 signaling. European journal of pharmacology, 559(2-3), 189-195.
- Cabral, G. A., Raborn, E. S., Griffin, L., Dennis, J., & Marciano‐Cabral, F. (2008). CB2 receptors in the brain: role in central immune function. British journal of pharmacology, 153(2), 240-251.
- Burstein, S. (2015). Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry, 23(7), 1377-1385.
- Russo, E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245.
- Crippa, J. A., Crippa, A., Hallak, J. E., Martín-Santos, R., & Zuardi, A. W. (2016). Δ9-THC intoxication by cannabidiol-enriched cannabis extract in two children with refractory epilepsy: full remission after switching to purified cannabidiol. Frontiers in pharmacology, 7, 359.
- Porter, B. E., & Jacobson, C. (2013). Report of a parent survey of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis use in pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior, 29(3), 574-577.
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
CBD Oil for Pregnancy: How Moms Are Using It
More moms are turning to therapeutic products made with CBD, or cannabidiol, and some swear it helped offer relief while they were expecting. Here’s what these moms—and experts—say about CBD during pregnancy.
Maressa Brown is a seasoned lifestyle journalist, writer, and astrologer. In addition to being a regular contributor to Parents.com, her bylines appear on InStyle, Shape, What to Expect, Cosmopolitan, et al. She is the author of a forthcoming parenting title to be published by Artisan Books in early 2023. A graduate of Emerson College, she’s based in Los Angeles.
December 9, 2018
Touted for offering a bevy of benefits, from pain relief to stress management, CBD, or cannabidiol, is having a real moment. The component of either a marijuana or hemp plant is non-psychoactive, unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)—which only comes from marijuana—and is popping up in therapeutic products all over the internet and country. From drinking CBD mocktails as an alternative to wine to caring for sore muscles with a CBD salve or soaking in a tub with a CBD-lace bath bomb, moms everywhere are loving its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsant, and antidepressant properties.
These properties are research-proven. Clinical research has shown that CBD, which is generally taken orally as a tincture or in an edible form, can be therapeutically useful for managing anxiety and depression, chronic pain, sleep disorders, and seizure disorders. There’s also clinical evidence that CBD can be effective in suppressing nausea and vomiting, both symptoms commonly encountered by expectant moms. So, it’s no surprise that some pregnant women are getting on-board with, or simply curious about, CBD use.
What Moms Say
Maggie Frank, a mom who is also the National Educator for PlusCBD Oil, says she’s seen the product “used by women during pregnancy to help with a wide range of complaints including morning sickness, stress and anxiety, sleeplessness, food aversions as well as the aches, pains and cramps that accompany pregnancy for many.”
When Frank herself was expecting in 2015, prior to joining the company, she says she suffered from hypermesis gravitum (HG), a condition marked by chronic, severe morning sickness. “I was getting sick 20-30 times a day, was unable to nourish myself or my baby, and was constantly flirting with dehydration,” she tells Parents.com. “The medicine typically prescribed for this has a slew of potential side effects, so I refused it. My symptoms actually got worse with each passing month, to a point where my doctor was recommending bed rest in the fourth month.”
That’s when she says she started researching and learned about CBD. She was so intrigued that she discussed it with her doctor who she says “didn’t have an opinion either way, other than it didn’t seem like it would be worse than the pharmaceutical’s risks, and we needed to figure something out fast.”
Frank says she started with 3 mg of PlusCBDOil Green peppermint spray, and got relief, the very first day. “It was like someone flipped off the switch that was making me feel sick at all times,” she explains. “I was once again able to move, sleep and eat without feeling the need to vomit. Even my over sensitivity to smells dissipated!” She says that over the course of her pregnancy, she also experienced a “reduction in stress and anxiety levels, better mood, more patience, better sleep, and less aches and pains.”
Like Frank, Jennifer Farris, a health coach, yoga instructor, and mom who gave birth to her son just this past September, attests to the benefit of CBD use during pregnancy. “CBD oils noticeably reduced my anxiety during pregnancy and made it easy to fall asleep,” she tells Parents.com. “They also helped lessen joint pain with all the changes in my body during pregnancy. I used Sunday Scaries CBD Gummies, and their products are third-party lab tested to ensure there are zero traces of THC.”
What the Experts Say
The fact is that many—if not most—ob-gyns who would express concern and hesitate to recommend CBD use during pregnancy, in part due to the existing body of research, which is limited and has stated that cannabinoids could be harmful to both moms and their babies.
“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.”
Felice Gersh, MD, ob-gyn and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Practice of Irvine in Irvine, California corroborates that experts’ concern is related to lacking data and “the fact that production is poorly regulated in most states.” While that remains to be the case, she advises her pregnant patients to avoid using CBD.
That said, Congress is poised to lift a federal hemp ban this month, that, according to The Hill, “will for the first time allow lawmakers to develop and impose best manufacturing practices and standards for this nascent industry—policies that will ultimately lead to a safer and better-quality product for consumers.”
The social, political, and scientific turning of the tide may ultimately reshape experts’ take on CBD for expectant moms. In the meantime, women are definitely advised to work with their health care provider to create a safe, healthy treatment plan that is best for them.