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CBD During Pregnancy: Is It Safe to Use?

Is CBD Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is one of the most wondrous times in a woman’s life. Nurturing a tiny being in one’s body is a truly magical and rewarding feeling. Unfortunately, along with this also comes a host of unpleasant issues like cramping, nausea, depletion of energy and resources, sensitive skin, headaches, loss of sleep, anxiety, and depression.  

As CBD gains attention for being a helpful way to combat various conditions, more and more moms are looking into it as well for their own use during pregnancy. And while CBD has been shown to have many benefits, the question remains – is CBD oil safe during pregnancy?

What is CBD oil?

Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a compound from the cannabis Sativa L plant. It is not to be confused with tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is the psychoactive compound found in the same plant. CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning, it does not give you the intoxicating ‘high’ that THC does. 

These two compounds interact with our body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) – the system responsible for maintaining homeostasis and regulating processes such as sleep, mood, memory, and many more. The ECS regulates these functions through an intricate flow and exchange between receptors, endocannabinoid, and enzymes.

These two compounds interact with the ECS in very different ways. THC, the active component of marijuana, attaches to the receptors in the endocannabinoid system and can overwhelm the system, causing disruptions in the flow. 

Thus, THC can cause impairment of thinking, coordination, and reflexes and affects mood and pain sensitivity by stimulating the brain to produce an oversupply of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. This gives THC its characteristic high or euphoric sensation. 

CBD, on the other hand, does not elicit this same reaction in users since it does not bind with receptors. What it does is merely interact with and influence receptors to help soothe inflammation and bring the body back into a state of equilibrium when the natural endocannabinoid system has been disturbed. 

The most common source of CBD oil is hemp, which contains a higher CBD content and a lower level of THC. It is this distinction that makes hemp the prime choice of most CBD manufacturers and users. Knowing this vital piece of information is especially important for pregnant women who wish to try CBD products as they must avoid ingesting any substance with THC at all costs.   

What is CBD oil used for?

Since its discovery as a way to decrease the frequency of seizures in certain spectrums of epilepsy, CBD has become increasingly popular to help alleviate many other conditions such as anxiety, chronic pain, nausea, sleep, and mood disorders. Clinical research abounds that discusses the positive results the compound has displayed in terms of managing these conditions and improving the overall quality of life. 

And with CBD now considered a legal substance in some parts of the world, including the United States, it has soared and taken on many forms in the market. CBD is now available as oils, tinctures, nutraceuticals, lotions, creams, gummies, candies, and many other forms. 

What Moms Say

This combination of availability and science-backed benefits has served to invite more and more expectant mothers to wonder,  “Can you use hemp oil when pregnant?” It’s difficult to blame them – morning sickness alone is a huge challenge that can sometimes be severe enough to be considered debilitating. 

Positive anecdotal evidence of the relationship between CBD and pregnancy is on the rise. Many moms believe that with CBD oil pregnancy can be a much easier experience.  

Marissa Fratoni, RN, runs CannaMommy, a free clinic that helps advise pregnant mothers on the use of cannabis. Fratoni cites a patient of hers who suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe type of morning sickness. 

According to Fratoni, this patient, who was advised to go for IV fluids and a feeding tube to manage her condition, chose to try cannabis instead and was finally able to find relief from persistent nausea and vomiting. 

In an interview with Parents Magazine, Maggie Frank speaks highly of her own CBD pregnancy journey. She recounts her successful experience with using 3 mg of CBD oil per day to help her deal with hyperemesis gravidarum.  

Another mom who touts the benefits of CBD during pregnancy is Jennifer Farris, a health coach, and yoga instructor. According to her, CBD oils reduced her anxiety, helped ease her into sleep, and provided relief for joint pain as well. 

These stories have bolstered the belief that using CBD oil during pregnancy is the newest miracle in health and wellness. In 2016, the number of pregnant women using cannabis in California was almost twice what it was in 2009.  And that number is set to go up even higher as more products and formulations come out in the market.

What The Experts Say

Despite all the warm praise it has been getting, doctors are hesitant to discuss the combination of CBD oil and pregnancy. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) itself has issued a warning of the serious risks of using unverified products when pregnant. 

This hesitation is due to the fact that there have so far been no studies conducted on the effects of taking CBD while pregnant. There are several reasons why there has been no research done yet. 

  • Gaining approval from authorities 

It is difficult to get a trial that involves pregnant women. Research requests or proposals to test a substance that is already controversial, to begin with on such a sensitive group of individuals would have a below-average chance of getting approved by the authorized organizations. 

  • The complexity of pregnancy 

Each pregnancy is different – not everyone will go through the same set of symptoms and certainly not in the same level of intensity. A supplement could work for one woman and not for another. This makes it difficult to set parameters and arrive at meaningful conclusions with whatever data might be gathered. 

  • Time limitations

The best and most reliable research studies take place over long periods of time and involve large sample sizes. Studies conducted over a period of nine months or less would not yield reliable results.

While most doctors and health professionals approach the use of CBD oil during pregnancy with extreme caution, there are some who see a future in which a low dose of CBD can be used during pregnancy. 

Others, like midwives, see its value in helping women give birth because of its relaxing effects. Laura Erickson, LDEM, CPM, a midwife from Portland, Oregon, cites the Sphincter Law, which describes how women’s bodies function as they give birth. “In order to give birth”, she says, “you have to be able to relax.” 

Dr. Janice Knox, MD, MBA, a retired anesthesiologist who now runs a medical practice with cannabinoids as a focus, agrees with this, believing that mitigating stress is one of the essential things that need to be addressed before a major operation like birth.  

Nevertheless, even with an open mind towards the future of CBD, these health professionals all draw the line at advising patients to go ahead and use CBD or hemp oil when pregnant. 

They cite the complicated exchanges between the embryo and the mother’s uterus as the main reason for caution. Any substance that an expectant mother ingests during her pregnancy would cross the placental barrier and expose the fetus to many risks.

Marijuana, for instance, has been found to be harmful to the baby. It is linked to premature births, small birth size, difficult labor, and even miscarriage. It also poses long-term effects on infants and children, affecting their cognitive abilities and memory processing.  

The takeaway

As a general rule, experts agree – a CBD oil pregnancy is a risky pregnancy. They believe that expectant and breastfeeding moms would do well to steer clear of CBD products altogether. 

But in cases where women are truly at their wits’ end, desperate for relief, and insist on trying it out to manage their symptoms, experts can only recommend that they consult their doctors and seek professional advice for a safe CBD program. And no matter what program or product they end up with, it’s always best to start with low doses and to maintain transparency with their doctors. 

The safest approach, for now, would definitely be limited to the use of topical forms of CBD, such as lotions and creams. This is because topically applied products do not cross the placenta and would pose a lower risk of harming the fetus than other ingested forms. 

Even then, great caution must be observed in choosing the right product. Not all CBD products are created equal, and it’s imperative that users take the time to do their own research and look at labels closely to determine the product’s ingredients and potency. Mission Farms CBD posts all the lab results for their products showing that they are free from any pesticides, chemicals, molds, and solvents.

Much is still unknown, and until more research shines a light on the real impact of CBD on mothers and their babies, every ounce of care must be taken to keep both moms and babies healthy.