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CBD has been a hot topic in wellness and medicine for the past couple of years. As science catches up with the underlying molecular mechanisms of its effects, pregnant women may be wondering if the benefits of CBD might help with the symptoms of pregnancy.

But is it safe to take while pregnant?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly advises against using CBD if you are pregnant since there is no conclusive data about its safety and long-term effects.

There is also a potential for CBD products to be contaminated with THC, pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and fungus.

The FDA continues to research and study the data on the potential adverse effects of CBD during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

However, based on the studies we already have available, there are plenty of reasons to avoid the extract if you are pregnant or nursing. 

What Are the Risks of Using CBD While Pregnant? 

A study has found that CBD usage in pregnant test animals caused problems with the reproductive systems in male fetuses.

In addition, the study concluded that the testicular weight of the subject was reduced on day twelve with CBD usage and on day one with THC. 

“These results indicate that perinatal exposure to psychoactive and non-psychoactive components of marijuana can produce long-term disruption of testicular function including the spermatogenic as well as the steroidogenic components.”

Another, more recent study, conducted at the University of Minnesota, examined the long-term impacts of CBD usage on offspring of mice during pregnancy and nursing.

The research team from the University’s Department of Animal Science started by using a typical proportionate dose for adults purchasing CBD over the counter.

The team then dosed the pregnant mice daily throughout the pregnancy and lactation.

Beyond that, the offspring were followed into adulthood without any additional CBD, at which time the mice were measured for the behavioral and molecular impacts of the CBD.

Dr. Christopher Faulk, assistant professor in functional genomics, explains:

“Adult animals who were exposed to CBD in the womb and during early life showed long-lasting changes to their cognitive and affective behavior, even after they had not been exposed to CBD for a long time. These initial findings encourage caution in regard to women using CBD during pregnancy and nursing—compounds like CBD and THC cross the placenta easily and are found in breastmilk.”

Additionally, while the study did find that there was a noticeable improvement in the female subject’s memory, the offspring also exhibited increased anxiety.

The research also concluded that CBD usage resulted in hundreds of changes in the female subject’s gene expression.

The genes affected by CBD were involved in forming new neurons and synapses, communication between neurons, and diseases like autism spectrum disorder, epilepsy, and substance use disorder.

Furthermore, CBD is a new and largely unregulated market. There are many case reports of products marketed as “pure” CBD contaminated with substances you want nowhere near a developing infant, including THC, pesticides, toxic metals, bacteria, and fungus.

Is CBD Safe to Use While Breastfeeding?

Data is insufficient to conclude whether or not CBD is safe to use while nursing.

Chemicals from marijuana in any form (including CBD) can be passed through breast milk from a mother to her infant.

These chemicals can affect a variety of neurodevelopmental processes in the infant.

The research that scientists have to work with usually comes from studies about marijuana and breastfeeding.

According to a study from UC San Diego, THC was measurable in breast milk samples for up to six days after the mother consumed or ingested the substance.

Any CBD you take while breastfeeding can make its way into breast milk and, therefore, your baby. 

Because CBD still has not been conclusively proven to be safe for breastfeeding infants, it is perhaps best for nursing mothers to avoid the extract altogether. 

For the same reasons, you should not use CBD while pregnant also applies to taking it while breastfeeding.

The CDC says, “To limit potential risk to the infant, breastfeeding mothers should be advised not to use marijuana or marijuana-containing products in any form, including those containing CBD, while breastfeeding.”

Are Topical CBD Products Safe to Take While Pregnant? 

There are several different methods to get the benefits of CBD into our bodies, and one way involves the largest organ we have – our skin.

CBD accomplishes this by stimulating a specific set of cannabinoid receptors, called CB2 receptors, connected to our peripheral nervous system.

Unlike other CBD methods, CBD topicals do not penetrate deep enough to pass through blood-brain barriers to reach the bloodstream.

Instead, it provides a localized effect when the CBD absorbs through the pores and the CB2 receptors inside the skin.

In the same University of Minnesota study mentioned above, Dr. Faulk concluded:

“When applied topically, little to no CBD reaches the bloodstream because of the compound’s lipophilic chemical structure. So, while no formal studies have been carried out, it is likely that this type of exposure would be lower risk.”

Either way, if you are curious about using CBD topicals while pregnant or nursing, it is still highly recommended that you consult your doctor first. 

What do Health Experts Say About Taking CBD While Pregnant?

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) concludes that there is insufficient research to determine how infants and their future health might be affected by cannabis or any of its byproducts.

They also recommend consulting your health care provider before using these substances while pregnant. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) similarly recommends that “women who are using marijuana or other cannabinoid-containing products to treat a medical condition or treating nausea and vomiting during pregnancy should be counseled about the lack of safety data and the possible adverse effects of THC in these products on the developing fetus.” 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions: “There may be serious risks to using cannabis products, including those containing CBD, if pregnant or breastfeeding.”

Their website states that they are collecting studying data on the possible harmful effects of CBD during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, but say that based on what they know so far, “there is significant cause for concern.”

Conclusion

Most experts recommend avoiding CBD while pregnant or breastfeeding since there is not enough research and conclusive data about CBD usage to determine whether or not it is safe or effective for an expectant mom and her developing baby – or for a breastfeeding mom and her nursing baby.

Additionally, because the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate CBD, there are other serious questions about product quality since CBD products can be contaminated with THC and other harmful substances.

Topical products may be a safe alternative to ingesting CBD; however, given the minimal amount of research, it is probably best to avoid CBD altogether.

There is not enough research to confirm the exact effects on an infant. Therefore, we recommend that anyone interested in trying CBD while pregnant or nursing consult their physician before doing so.

Sources

  1. Maternal cannabinoid exposure. Effects on spermatogenesis in male offspring
  2. Developmental cannabidiol exposure increases anxiety and modifies genome-wide brain DNA methylation in adult female mice
  3. Marijuana Use by Breastfeeding Mothers and Cannabinoid Concentrations in Breast Milk
  4. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research
  5. What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding
  6. Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Implications for Neonatal and Childhood Outcomes

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