Many expectant mothers are interested in the concept of turning to hemp or CBD products during pregnancy in order to control the signature unpleasant symptoms that come along with it. But since medical professionals do not recommend the use of CBD during pregnancy, is hemp oil safe?
We've deconstructed some of the conversations surrounding CBD oil and pregnancy, plus a few pieces of research that has been conducted so far. Let's jump in.
Confusion About CBD vs THC Remains
CBD has been shown to have a good safety profile overall in research, but that research hasn’t extended to how it could affect a fetus.
Many substances are capable of crossing the placenta and affecting your growing baby, even if they’re perfectly safe for the mother to consume.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises against using products that are made from industrial hemp’s infamous, intoxicating cousin, though that may have to do with its high THC content, which CBD does not contain.
We currently need more research on how CBD from industrial hemp could affect pregnant mothers and their babies. This has been hindered by the fact that there’s commonly a lack of clarity around the differences between hemp and its cousin, and how the former won’t get you high while the latter does.
A 2014 study suggested that THC exposure during pregnancy negatively affects brain development in both humans and mice. This led to wider concerns about cannabinoid consumption during pregnancy, in general.
As fetal development involves many specifically-timed signals and processes, THC may impair it in some ways. THC use has also been linked with low birth weight and premature deliveries. However, a review of research found that there was no significant risk of these when results were adjusted for factors such as tobacco use.
Contradictions over Negative Effects of CBD and Pregnancy on Newborns
Contradicting the 2014 study is a six-year, controlled study on Jamaican mothers and their children. This found that the mothers using THC had babies who were more socially responsive, less irritable, and more alert and stable.
However, these better scores were caused by higher educational attainment and financial independence among users. Nineteen of the 33 users reported that it supported a steady appetite throughout the day; 15 said that it helped them support ideal energy levels. Participants also stated that they found relief from the stress and feelings of desperation associated with raising children in poverty.
Follow-up research conducted in California also found no developmental problems in the babies of mothers who consumed THC.
The endocannabinoid system, a system of chemicals produced by our own bodies similar to cannabinoids and the receptors that respond to both, is present from the early embryonic stage. Even when an embryo is only two cells, it still has cannabinoid receptors.
Because there is insufficient research concerning CBD use and pregnancy, it's best to avoid consuming CBD while pregnant.
In a study on mouse embryos, THC, but not CBD, stopped the development of embryos that were less than 8 cells. However, one of our own cannabinoids, anandamide, also stopped early embryos from developing. CBD exerts some of its results by increasing levels of anandamide, so it may have negative effects on embryonic development.
It must be remembered that this was a 1995 study on mice, so it may not translate to humans. On the other hand, many of the Jamaican women in the study above were “roots daughters” who consumed THC every day, including during the earliest weeks of pregnancy.
Right now, we don’t have sufficient evidence or research to support CBD’s safety during pregnancy. This doesn’t mean that it’s not safe--just simply that it hasn’t been researched enough to confirm whether it is or isn’t.
As a result, there’s still so much that we don’t know, so it’s safest to avoid consuming CBD products when you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
When in doubt, ask your doctor before starting any dietary supplement, especially if you’re pregnant or are going to start trying soon. They can advise you on what you should and shouldn’t be taking, and if you’re currently using CBD, they may be able to offer alternative recommendations.
CBD-Free Ways to Ease Pregnancy Discomforts
It seems like the ultimate irony that CBD--which could be highly effective at easing the discomforts that can come with pregnancy--shouldn’t be used while you’re pregnant until we know more about its safety.
Fortunately, there are other natural remedies and alternative treatments that you can use to ease some of the side effects that come with pregnancy which have been more thoroughly researched.
Morning sickness, for example, may be eased by ginger tea, sucking on a peppermint, or using lemon-scented aromatherapy. Sea-bands and psi wristbands may also be useful at reducing persistent nausea, and opting for blander foods to get through rough patches in the first trimester may be a good choice. And, as strange as it sounds, eating a little throughout the day can actually help keep nausea at bay (some moms warn against letting yourself go too long without a snack!).
Those safer, blander foods will be helpful throughout the pregnancy if you’re struggling with heartburn. Avoid heartburn triggers, particularly before bed, skipping out on carbonated drinks and spicy or greasy foods. Consider finishing meals with soothing drinks like warm milk, which can neutralize acid, and make sure that you’re leaving enough time before bed after eating.
Hormone-induced headaches may be improved by a massage, adding a cool compress to your forehead, or even relaxation techniques like deep breathing and yoga.
If you’re experiencing regular, severe headaches during pregnancy, make sure you tell your doctor at your next appointment. It could be caused by preeclampsia, which is caused by high blood pressure and will need to be treated or monitored.
Constipation can be a frustrating part of pregnancy, especially if it leads to hemorrhoids. Make sure you’re getting enough fiber to prevent or reduce this, eating plenty of vegetables and plant-based proteins. Drinking plenty of water can help, as can soaking in a warm tub for 10-15 minutes a day. You can also use witch hazel wipes to soothe the area, but avoid other scented or dyed products.
Getting up to walk around after dinner can also help with digestion, easing both heartburn and constipation at the same time. Kegels will also help prepare your pelvic floor for birth while simultaneously increase circulation to the affected area and possibly help with hemorrhoids.
Aches & Discomfort
Sore backs and physical discomfort can appear during all trimesters, and typically becomes more pronounced during the last trimester for some women. This is normal, as a woman’s body will go through drastic changes to support her baby.
Soaking in a pool or a warm bath may help with muscle soreness and cramping, and a prenatal massage with lavender oil can also be useful. Regular stretching and taking prenatal exercise classes can prevent and reduce discomfort. There are also great products available to help you sleep and soothe aches like pregnancy pillows.
The Bottom Line: Inconclusive
It’s possible that cannabinoids have been consumed by pregnant woman over the years and throughout history, but we don’t currently have enough information about its safety for the mother or her fetus to determine whether or not it should be used by pregnant mothers today. Until we have that research, it’s best to talk to your doctor about alternative remedies that have undergone more testing.