In recent years, the popularity of CBD-infused products has skyrocketed. You can smoke them, vape them, drink them, or mix CBD oil into your meals. In the United States, selling CBD products that contain less than 0.3% became legal in 2018 with the passing of the Agriculture Improvement Act. However, the amount of research about the long term effects of CBD is inadequate.
Despite that, CBD oil and similar products are often marketed as a cure to many common conditions, while downplaying potential side effects. Although most people are aware that smoking marijuana during pregnancy could have a negative impact on the development of the fetus, the same cannot be said about using CBD products.
According to the popular misconception, if cannabis products don't make you high, there is no risk to the baby, and as such, it is completely safe to use them while pregnant. What's more, the time of pregnancy is difficult, as a woman’s body is changing, which leads to a range of unpleasant symptoms.
At the same time, it so happens that nausea and headaches can be dealt with by using CBD oil. Unfortunately, although the studies on this subject aren't completely clear, the experts advise staying away from CBD products during pregnancy.
The Difference Between CBD and THC
Before we delve into his subject further, let us focus on the difference between CBD and THC first. Although both of them can be found in cannabis plants, their effects on the human brain are somewhat varied. Studies have shown that CBD can be helpful with conditions such as:
This compound lacks any psychoactive properties, which, simply put, means that if you consume THC-free CBD, you won't get high.
When it comes to THC, another compound that can be found in marijuana, it Is used to treat a range of health conditions that are mostly overlapping with the ones on the previous list:
- appetite disorders
However, one major difference between CBD and THC is that the latter has psychoactive properties, meaning it can make you high.
Although CBD is the safer one from these two substances, the possible side effects of using CBD oil and other CBD-infused products include:
- liver damage
- weight loss
- potentially dangerous interactions with other drugs
Even though recreational marijuana might be legal in a place where you live, it doesn't mean that it's devoid of any side effects. The most common ones are:
- tachycardia (elevated heart rate)
- impaired reaction times
- impaired memory
- the weakening of the immune system
Although, in recent years, some people have touted CBD and THC to be wonderful substances with almost miraculous properties that could be used to treat every possible disorder, despite their side effects, CBD and THC products can actually be helpful when dealing with a wide range of health problems.
However, we recommend taking most of such assertions with a grain of salt unless you are provided with several studies to back these claims.
Even if most don't conduct extensive research before smoking a joint, they are aware that marijuana can be potentially harmful to their health. It is widely understood that a substance that can blast you into outer space might not necessarily be completely safe.
What about CBD? Although it can help you relax, it won't make you high. As such, the logical conclusion would be that the use of CBD during pregnancy shouldn't carry any risks. Is it true? Not necessarily. Let's find out what the experts say about this subject.
What Does Science Say About Marijuana Consumption During Pregnancy?
Many marijuana enthusiasts might be reluctant to rely on established authorities’ opinions in the medical world, as in the past, the nature of their favorite plant was often misrepresented.
However, the important thing is that those aren't just empty words that aim to discourage people from smoking marijuana without good reason – instead, they are based on reliable studies.
Jerome Adams, who is the Surgeon General1, points out that cannabis use during pregnancy can impact the developing fetus in several ways:
- Disrupt the endocannabinoid system, which could affect the brain development2
- Decrease the weight of the fetus3
Apart from that, the usage of cannabis products is discouraged even after pregnancy, if the mother is breastfeeding, as it could lead to hyperactivity and impairment of cognitive functions4.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists likewise discourages women from the use of CBD oil while pregnant5. Some pregnant women use CBD oil to deal with unpleasant symptoms, such as morning sickness and headaches.
However, ACOG warns medical professionals against prescribing marijuana products, citing the lack of reliable research. For now, there's not enough data to assert with high certainty whether cannabis use could have a negative impact on the development of the fetus.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration cautions women about smoking cannabis during pregnancy, as marijuana smoke contains many toxic compounds6. It points out that there is evidence, although not as strong, that cannabis use among pregnant women could lead to preterm delivery.
On the other hand, a claim that marijuana use leads to lower birth weight is once again repeated, citing a study7 which shows that on average, women who use cannabis products during pregnancy deliver babies that are 110g lighter.
However, this data refers to the use of cannabis in pregnant women. Although admittedly, we need more research on this subject, it seems that cannabis use during pregnancy could impair the development of the fetus. What about the use of CBD?
Is It Common to Use CBD Oil During Pregnancy?
Unfortunately, the data about the number of pregnant women using cannabis is worrying. A study conducted in 20198 found out that in 2002, 3.4% of women used marijuana while pregnant, but in 2017 this figure rose to 7%.
Researchers have also focused on cannabis consumption in different trimesters. What's most concerning is that in 2002, only 0.5% of women admitted to using CBD during pregnancy, but in 2017 it was already 2.5%.
Does It Matter When CBD Is Consumed During Pregnancy?
There aren't any studies on the severity of the harm being done to the developing fetus, depending on the trimester in which a mother uses cannabis products.
When it comes to alcohol consumption, most studies indicate that drinking a little bit of alcohol in the first trimester has a less negative impact on the developing fetus than drinking in a second or third trimester9–10.
However, other pieces of research show that drinking at the beginning of a pregnancy is more likely to lead to fetal alcohol syndrome11.
In the absence of reliable studies, we can only speculate that cannabis consumption in the second and the third trimester similarly could be more harmful to the fetus, though we want to stress that so far, there is no science to back it up.
Is It Safe to Use CBD During Pregnancy?
The short answer is that we don't have evidence that shows that CBD use during pregnancy doesn't have any potentially harmful side effects. Most data that we currently have seems to indicate that although CBD is not necessarily harmful, it well could be – we just don't know yet.
One study has shown that using CBD oil while pregnant could harm the development of the reproductive system of male babies12, though we certainly need more research on this subject.
What we do know is that CBD often has side effects when used by adults. In a great majority of cases, they aren't particularly dangerous, but we must remember that a fetus doesn't have a fully developed body yet – it's still growing, which means that it's better to err on the side of caution.
Even if we find out that the use of CBD oil while pregnant doesn't have a negative impact on the developing fetuses, it might be that it could come into interactions with other drugs or even foods.
As we have mentioned at the beginning of this article, CBD has plenty of applications because of its profound effect on the human brain. Unfortunately, when mixed with another compound, it could lead to unwelcome reactions.
Another problem with CBD use during pregnancy is that THC-free cannabis products might actually contain THC. That's not a hypothetical and unlikely situation, but rather, a common occurrence.
In a 2017 study13, researchers bought 84 CBD products from 31 companies, and then analyzed their content. 43% of products were under labeled (their potency was stronger than the label claimed), 26% – over labeled, whereas only 31% were accurately described.
Vape liquids were found to be mislabeled the most often, whereas the manufacturers of CBD oil were the most truthful (in 45% of cases).
What about their THC content? Although all of these products were labeled as not containing any THC, only 79% of them proved to be actually THC-free.
Why Do Women Use CBD Oil During Pregnancy?
As we have previously mentioned, CBD has a wide range of benefits, but pregnant women use CBD oil and other CBD-infused products particularly to deal with morning sickness.
Although CBD manufacturers’ marketing strategies are, at times, very aggressive, CBD oil can actually often be helpful in such cases. However, even if it's effective, it doesn't mean that there aren't any long-term effects on the developing fetus.
That's why experts recommend using alternatives to CBD oil. The medicine to treat nausea, insomnia, or anxiety in pregnant women might have side effects, but we have access to reliable research on this subject matter, which means that we know what to expect in the worst-case scenario.
With CBD, things are more complicated – the scant research seems to indicate that it could be potentially harmful, though it's not enough to draw any far-reaching conclusions.
In recent years, the public perception of the cannabis plant has changed drastically. Currently, recreational marijuana is still illegal in a majority of states, but each year, more and more states pass the legislation lifting the ban on cannabis.
CBD products are all the rage now. Unfortunately, there is also a great deal of misinformation involved in the marketing practices of their manufacturers. Because of that, CBD is often recommended14 during pregnancy, as it can alleviate some of the unpleasant symptoms, such as morning sickness and insomnia.
However, so far, there are not enough studies on the effects of CBD on developing fetuses, and as such, it's best to avoid using CBD products during pregnancy. Apart from that, the studies have shown that the claims of CBD products being THC-free are often misleading. That's why we recommend relying on alternative methods for now.
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- Marijuana Use in Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding. Torri D Metz, Laura M Borgelt (2018).
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
- Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Implications for Neonatal and Childhood Outcomes. Sheryl A. Ryan, Seth D. Ammerman, Mary E. O’Connor. Pediatrics (2018).
- Self-reported Medical and Nonmedical Cannabis Use Among Pregnant Women in the United States. Nora D. Volkow, Beth Han, Wilson M. Compton (2019).
- The effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption and binge drinking in early pregnancy on executive function in 5‐year‐old children. Å. Skogerbø, Us. Kesmodel, T. Wimberley, H. Støvring, J. Bertrand, Ni. Landrø, El. Mortensen (2012).
- Maternal cannabinoid exposure. Effects on spermatogenesis in male offspring. S. L. Dalterio, D. G. deRooij (1986).
- Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. Marcel O. Bonn-Miller, Mallory J. E. Loflin, Brian F. Thomas, Jahan P. Marcu, Travis Hyke, Ryan Vandrey (2017).