Many women wonder if they could still use CBD oil during pregnancy, with their biggest cause of worry being its potential side effects and risks, especially for the unborn child.
Pregnancy is as beautiful as can be, but it usually comes with unpleasant side effects, such as anxiety, insomnia, cramping, headaches, back pain, stress, depression, morning sickness, and much more. Needless to say, these symptoms can cause great discomfort and affect your quality of life.
The good news is that several CBD oil studies have shown that it can help support most of these symptoms, which is why more and more expecting women have become curious about using it.
This begs the question: is CBD oil use safe for expectant mothers? What do science and experts say about CBD oil and pregnancy? How should pregnant women take CBD oil safely?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ve gone all out to cover everything you ought to know about CBD oil and pregnancy.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD is a shorter term for cannabidiol, one of 113+ active chemical compounds called cannabinoids naturally found in the Cannabis sativa (both hemp and marijuana plants).
Perhaps the better-known cannabinoid is THC, a psychoactive compound that causes the typical high sensation associated with marijuana. Although similar in structure, CBD doesn’t produce any intoxicating or psychedelic effects like THC.
It so happens that CBD is closely similar to endocannabinoids, which are hormones produced internally by the body. And, it’s through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that CBD is able to deliver an impressive list of medical and therapeutic effects.
Packed with cannabidiol, CBD oil has become a popular natural health supplement touted as a remedy for several common ailments and chronic conditions.
It’s for these reasons that pregnant women are turning to CBD oil for relief against morning sickness, muscle cramping, pain, nausea, and other pregnancy symptoms. But is this safe (more on this ahead)?
Today, you can find oodles of CBD products in the form of edibles, gummies, tinctures, topicals, capsules, tablets, oils, sprays, and vapes. Of all these forms, CBD oils are very popular, and with good reason.
CBD oil is not only easy to dose but also has high bioavailability, and extended shelf-life. Plus, it’s super easy to consume, whether that’s orally, sublingually or through vaping.
Is CBD oil legal? Glad you asked. Following the passing of Farm Bill 2018, hemp-derived CBD oil (which should contain less than 0.3 percent THC) is legal everywhere in the US from a federal standpoint.
Marijuana-derived CBD oil, on the other hand, is federally illegal, but legal in some states, especially those that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Take Texas, for instance; the Lone Star State recently passed a bill that essentially made use of CBD oil legal statewide.
Is CBD Oil Safe to Use During Pregnancy?
Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer.
Whereas early review by the WHO seems to suggest that CBD oil use is generally safe and effective for certain conditions, conclusive research into the efficacy and safety during pregnancy hasn’t been done.
To add insult to injury, long-term clinical data on CBD use amongst healthy pregnant ladies doesn’t yet exist. Even worse, some medical literature shows that most cannabinoids (think CBD and THC here) can cross the placenta and make their way to the growing fetus.
What that means is that if (and that’s a big if) CBD turns out to be harmful to the fetus, the effects can be far-reaching, with some lasting a lifetime.
However, what’s known so far is that marijuana use while pregnant is roundly unrecommended. For instance, the CDC says that women who are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant should avoid cannabis use, quoting that THC causes a myriad of health complications in newborns, including still or low birth weight.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) also recommends that ‘pot’ use should be avoided during pregnancy, claiming that THC can pass through the placenta causing developmental problems.
The same message reverberates across the medical community, with similar warnings coming out of the U.S. Surgeon General office, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), ACOG committee, and the FDA, just to mention a few.
With this in mind, it is safe to conclude that any CBD oil product that contains a significant amount of THC may not be safe for pregnancy.
On a more positive light, some expectant women who have used CBD oil say it has helped them get a handle on morning sickness, sleeplessness, food cravings/aversions, stress, anxiety, depression, and joint pain.
Perhaps the most well-publicized is the story of Maggie Frank. While talking to Parents magazine, she claimed that CBD oil helped her deal with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition characterized by vomiting and extreme morning sickness.
After using 3 mg of CBD oil per day, Maggie Frank says that she moved from vomiting 20-30 times each day to feeling relieved instantly. She was able to eat well, sleep and move about without a problem.
She isn’t alone. Jennifer Farris also swears that CBD oil use helped her during pregnancy. Also talking to Parents.com, the yoga instructor-cum-health coach said that CBD got rid of her pregnancy-related anxiety and helped her sleep better.
Tales of women like Jennifer Farris and Maggie Frank whose pregnancy experiences were turned around thanks to CBD oil are too many to ignore. But because the existing body of research is limited, the question of whether CBD oil use for pregnancy is safe or not is subject to debate.
Don’t forget that some CBD oil products may have a substantial dose of THC, which has been found to pose certain risks for both moms and their unborn babies.
So, if you are thinking of using CBD oil while pregnant, the most prudent thing to do is to talk with your doctor first. This way, you can get proper advice on how to safely use CBD oil to manage morning sickness, cramps, anxiety, and other downsides of pregnancy.
What Do the Experts Say About CBD Oil and Pregnancy?
Again, considering that there’s little research and even fewer clinical trials on CBD oil and pregnancy, most physicians, gynecologists, and other healthcare providers generally tend to dissuade pregnant women from using CBD products.
This conservative opinion of relatively “unknown” medications or health supplements in the medical community isn’t something new. It’s just that most professionals in the medical arena prefer the “better be safe than sorry” approach to anything and everything to do with pregnancy.
However, don’t get it wrong. While the breadth of research is minimal, that doesn’t mean that there are no studies available that have investigated CBD oil use during pregnancy.
Let’s take a look at some of these studies and what experts say.
In one 2016 study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, scientists found that using CBD-rich cannabis to treat acute & chronic symptoms during pregnancy didn’t result in significant “neonatal outcomes.”
That means that CBD oil (and indeed marijuana) use cannot be blamed solely for any negative pregnancy outcomes.
In fact, according to Dr. Stuart Titus, Ph.D., CBD actually helps with the development and growth of robust brain cells (in a process called neurogenesis). He goes ahead to attest that he’s seen pregnant mothers do well on CBD-rich diets and went on to give birth to healthy babies.
As per the medical researcher, the only reason why physicians and OB/GYNs don’t recommend CBD oil use during pregnancy is due to a lack of conclusive, longitudinal human studies on the subject.
Not many other experts agree with Dr. Stuart.
One of them is James Lozada, an OB/GYN anesthesiologist at Northwestern University. While he admits that CBD interacts with receptors differently from THC, he’s concerned because the said receptors play a big role in the fetus (neonatal) brain development. That’s why he cautions pregnant women to take a “better safe than sorry” road.
The same sentiments are held by Felice Gersh, MD, a trained ob-gyn and director of the Integrative Medical Practice of Irvine. While talking to Parents.com, she says the lack of clinical data and studies is a big red flag, especially when combined with a poorly regulated industry like the CBD market.
On her end, Dr. Talitha L. Bruney is more concerned about the unregulated nature of the CBD oil industry than anything else. While talking to Brit+Co, the Montefiore Health System’s director for Comprehensive Family Care Center lamented that there are no standardized formulations of CBD oil, as well as no strict regulations on the delivery form and recommended dosage.
You don’t need to look far and wide to note that there are two experts’ schools-of-thought when it comes to CBD oil use for pregnancy. Whereas some experts are concerned that CBD influence on cannabinoid receptors may disrupt neonatal brain developments, proponents like Dr. Stuart Titus believe the other way around is true.
With all these confusing expert opinions, moms-to-be who would like to jump on the CBD oil wagon are in limbo. However, whatever decision you make, be sure to do due diligence and perhaps run it by your OB-GYN.
Remember the effectiveness and how long it takes CBD oil to work depends on several factors, including potency, method of consumption, weight, desired effects, and quality of the product. As such, if you eventually decide to try CBD oil for your pregnancy conditions, be sure to opt for a quality product from a reputable vendor.
Why Do Pregnant Women Take CBD Oil?
In all its allure, pregnancy can take a toll on your body, resulting in numerous unpleasant symptoms and side effects. These can impact on your day to day life, with some side effects more serious than others.
As we’ve mentioned, CBD oil has shown potential in alleviating or managing an array of chronic and acute conditions. That’s why pregnant women resort to using CBD oil to deal with pregnancy-related issues such as:
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – This is a very common condition that is experienced by many women during pregnancy. It’s marked by extreme morning sickness that can be debilitating, making it almost impossible for the patient to move or leave the house.
In most cases, a woman suffering from HG vomits frequently, sometimes up to 30-40 times a day. Because it is accompanied by food aversion and fatigue, hyperemesis gravidarum can lead to severe dehydration and malnutrition — both of which are particularly dangerous for the mom and her growing baby.
To help expectant moms manage HG, doctors, and ob-gyn normally prescribe meds like Prochlorperazine, which is formulated to help stop the feeling of nausea by interfering with brain centers associated with nausea.
Unfortunately, this kind of medication comes with their set of symptoms and adverse side effects, including increased anxiety, blurred vision, dizziness, and insomnia. In saying that, Prochlorperazine opens the floodgates of other problems despite making nausea go away.
CBD oil is fast becoming an alternative to prescription drugs for expectant moms suffering from HG symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. And with good reason. CBD oil delivers similar anti-nausea (if not more) benefits, all without the side effects of Prochlorperazine
Pain and discomfort – Pregnant mothers experience a great deal of discomfort resulting from physical body changes. Back pain, joint pain, headaches, migraines, and cramping are just but a few uncomfortable symptoms she might experience.
Good thing, CBD oil has been found to help with pain management by suppressing pain centers in the brain. In one review study published in 2018, researchers noted that CBD can support the treatment of migraines, headaches, and pain.
In another comprehensive review of CBD studies carried out between 1975 and 2018, scientists concluded that it’s effective in managing pain and fibromyalgia.
Insomnia – Most pregnant women experience a drastic decline in the quality of sleep, particularly in the first trimester. This makes the woman not only exhausted but can cause insomnia during nighttime.
The main culprits for sleeplessness include back pain, vomiting & nausea, frequent urination, headaches, abdominal pain, leg cramps, and much more. Turns out, CBD oil can help take care of the vast majority of these symptoms, except for urinating frequently.
Stress, depression and anxiety – Raging hormones, social isolation, insomnia, and dramatically changing body can make an expectant mother jittery, stressed, down, and worried. Thankfully, a growing list of studies has shown that CBD oil can do wonders for people suffering from anxiety, depression, and stress.
For instance, in a 2011 study in which individuals with social anxiety disorder received a placebo or 400 mg of CBD, researchers found that those who took CBD reported reduced levels of anxiety.
A more comprehensive review study conducted in 2018 revealed that CBD oil has not only anti-stress effects but also antidepressant and anxiolytic properties.
CBD oil has also shown potential in addressing a plethora of other pregnancy-induced conditions, such as mood disorders, inflammatory conditions, hormone-caused acne, and cramping.
Effects of CBD Oil on the Fetus
Long-term studies and extensive research on the effects of CBD oil use on the fetus are not currently available. However, experts seem to think that overexposure to THC-containing CBD oil can lead to disruption of the development of the fetal brain.
Other suspected effects of THC-heavy CBD oil include preterm pregnancy and giving birth to an underweight or small baby. In some cases, this can result in stillbirth.
It’s worth noting, however, that there’s no clinical evidence or conclusive data which suggests that CBD oil on its own may pose these risks and side effects.
Interestingly, one 2016 mice study showed that THC inhibits the development of fewer than 8 embryonic cells. In the same study, scientists found out that an endocannabinoid called anandamide has similar effects: it stops the development of embryo cells.
CBD is known to increase anandamide levels in the body, which (by this logic) means it can have some adverse effects on the development of the mice fetus. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to note that this was a mice study, and the same effects might not be seen in human studies.
Safest Application of CBD Oil During Pregnancy
For a healthy non-expectant person, CBD oil is normally recommended to be taken orally. That’s because it is easy to know the exact dosage, not to mention that oral ingestion guarantees a high bioavailability of CBD.
But CBD oil can be vaped, baked into edibles (and eaten), or applied directly on the skin (topically). Each of these methods will have different results.
If you are worried that CBD might harm your unborn child, the safest way to try CBD oil is topical. That’s because topical application reduces the chances that CBD, THC or any other cannabinoid will enter your bloodstream and find their way to the fetus.
How to Start With CBD Oil During Your Pregnancy
The science of CBD oil is still in its infancy, which is why the information on the dosage available out there is wildly dissimilar. In general, the proper dose depends on your genetics, weight, and the severity of your pregnancy conditions.
For example, 40-160 mg of CBD oil is recommended for insomnia. You should take 2.5-20 mg for back pain; 5-50 mg for depression/anxiety; and 10-50 mg for headaches, cramping, and migraines.
Don’t forget that the effects one experiences when they consume CBD oil vary from person to person. As such, here’s a step by step process to follow in order to establish ideal dosage and tolerability:
Step 1. Start Off with Lose Dose
As with any supplement you wish to take while pregnant, it’s crucial to start the dosage low and ease into it until you establish your tolerability. Just like microdosing, begin with the lowest allowable dose, and then gradually increase the amount until you hit your recommended dosage.
Step 2. Consult with your Doctor
Even before you start taking CBD oil, you must speak to your ob-gyn or doctor about it first. Remember a lot of things can go wrong during pregnancy, and your ob-gyn/physician is your best friend. He or she will consider your pregnancy symptoms and recommend the right CBD dosage, or another type of supplement/medication that can do a better job.
Step 3. Monitor your Dose and Progress
When starting a new health supplement like CBD oil, it is best to monitor your dose and what you feel after the treatment. Usually, you can consult with your doctor to tailor your dosage according to your progress. More importantly, you should take note of your symptoms before & after taking CBD oil, any side effects, and the type of CBD product you took.
Step 4. Take only High-Quality CBD oil
Because the industry is highly unregulated, there are poorly formulated or product CBD oil products out there. They may contain unmentioned high levels of THC, as well as harmful chemicals that may hurt your unborn child, such as pesticides, toxic solvents, heavy metals, and other contaminants.
If you want to avoid these contaminants, the best course of action is to take CBD oil isolate which has nearly only cannabidiol. The producer usually takes out terpenes, THC, and other cannabinoids before reducing the extract into a concentrate.
As a rule of thumb, you should only take CBD oil product from a reputable vendor. Preferably, the product should have been tested by a 3rd-party testing lab.
Being pregnant, while it’s something beautiful, can lead to numerous unpleasant symptoms and side effects, including insomnia (sleeplessness), anxiety, depression, abdominal discomfort, headache migraines, back/joint pain, vomiting, and morning sickness.
If not managed, these conditions can adversely affect your daily life. To stay on top of these symptoms, most pregnant women are curious about using CBD oil.
While there’s scientific evidence that CBD oil may help with pain management, anxiety, depression, migraines, nausea, and many types of pregnancy-related pain, there’s a cause for concern, especially when it comes to risk and side effects on the moms and their unborn babies.
CDC, ACOG, FDA, and U.S. General Surgeon have severally warned pregnant women against using marijuana and byproducts, including medical marijuana. The reason behind this is that THC is a psychoactive compound that can hamper fetal brain development, resulting in smaller child, preterm pregnancy, and even stillbirth.
Given that the industry is largely unsupervised, most experts think using CBD oil may not be a smart choice for expectant mothers. Others say there’s very little research that has been done on the effects of CBD on both the unborn child and the mother.
However, proponents like Dr. Stuart Titus believe that CBD is a molecule that can help with neurogenesis, “the development of healthy brain cells.” In defense of Dr. Stuart, several women say they have experienced lesser symptoms after taking CBD oil.
However, if you are worried about CBD reaching the fetus, topical application may be your best shot. Even still, the best way is to start low and go slow. That means you should begin dosing with a low amount of CBD then progress to large doses until you hit your daily recommended dosage.