High doses of CBD in pregnant test animals have caused problems with the reproductive system of developing male fetuses 2 . In addition, based on what we already know about CBD, we expect that some amount of CBD will be transferred to babies through breast milk.
The clinical studies that supported the approval of the one available CBD drug product identified risks related to the use of CBD, including liver toxicity (damage), extreme sleepiness, and harmful interactions with other drugs.
FDA strongly advises against the use of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and marijuana in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
What do we know about the effects of CBD use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding?
FDA recently completed an evaluation of some hemp seed-derived food ingredients and had no objections to the use of these ingredients in foods. THC and CBD are found mainly in hemp flowers, leaves, and stems, not in hemp seeds. Hemp seeds can pick up miniscule amounts of THC and CBD from contact with other plant parts, but these amounts are low enough to not raise concerns for any group, including pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
We especially want to learn more about the effects of CBD during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, including, for example, whether and to what extent the presence of CBD in human milk harms the breastfed baby or the mother’s milk production.
If you are considering using cannabis, or any products containing THC or CBD, you should be aware of the following:
What about hemp seeds?
FDA wants you to know there may be serious risks to using cannabis products, including those containing CBD, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
FDA is studying the effects of CBD use from different angles, such as: (1) the use of CBD-containing products, like food, cosmetics, or supplements, over a person’s entire life; and (2) the effects of using these various products in combination. There are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD.
Frank says she started with 3 mg of PlusCBDOil Green peppermint spray, and got relief, the very first day. "It was like someone flipped off the switch that was making me feel sick at all times," she explains. "I was once again able to move, sleep and eat without feeling the need to vomit. Even my over sensitivity to smells dissipated!" She says that over the course of her pregnancy, she also experienced a "reduction in stress and anxiety levels, better mood, more patience, better sleep, and less aches and pains."
Felice Gersh, MD, ob-gyn and founder/director of the Integrative Medical Practice of Irvine in Irvine, California corroborates that experts' concern is related to lacking data and "the fact that production is poorly regulated in most states." While that remains to be the case, she advises her pregnant patients to avoid using CBD.
Touted for offering a bevy of benefits, from pain relief to stress management, CBD, or cannabidiol, is having a real moment. The component of either a marijuana or hemp plant is non-psychoactive, unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)—which only comes from marijuana—and is popping up in therapeutic products all over the internet and country. From drinking CBD mocktails as an alternative to wine to caring for sore muscles with a CBD salve or soaking in a tub with a CBD-lace bath bomb, moms everywhere are loving its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsant, and antidepressant properties.
That said, Congress is poised to lift a federal hemp ban this month, that, according to The Hill, "will for the first time allow lawmakers to develop and impose best manufacturing practices and standards for this nascent industry—policies that will ultimately lead to a safer and better-quality product for consumers."
The fact is that many—if not most—ob-gyns who would express concern and hesitate to recommend CBD use during pregnancy, in part due to the existing body of research, which is limited and has stated that cannabinoids could be harmful to both moms and their babies.
"The concern with phytocannabinoid/CBD supplementation and pregnancy is due to the unknown," Frank notes. "We currently don't have long-term research as to what happens years down the road as a result of utilizing hemp extracts in utero. Any woman using phytocannabinoids products should be aware of this and make her decision accordingly, preferably with her doctor."
Maggie Frank, a mom who is also the National Educator for PlusCBD Oil, says she's seen the product "used by women during pregnancy to help with a wide range of complaints including morning sickness, stress and anxiety, sleeplessness, food aversions as well as the aches, pains and cramps that accompany pregnancy for many."
According to Faulk and Wanner, gaining more insight into how CBD affects the developing brain will be important for future safety recommendations.
Among the study’s key findings:
In a new study published in the journal Clinical Epigenetics, researchers at the University of Minnesota used a rodent model to investigate the impact of CBD during development and uncovered effects on the brain and behavior. They found that CBD use during pregnancy may affect mood and cognition in offspring long after the exposure has ceased. The study is the first to examine the effects of maternal CBD exposure during pregnancy on adult offspring in mammals.
Specifically, the team of scientists investigated rodent behavior and DNA methylation, an important mechanism known as an epigenetic mark in both rodents and humans that helps control the “when, where, and how much” of gene activity. CBD’s effects on gene activity markers were examined in two brain regions important for memory, mood, and cognition.
The use of cannabidiol (CBD), the major non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, is on the rise across the United States. Pregnant women in particular may view CBD as more “natural” than other remedies for concerns such as nausea and pain, but the consequences of use for the developing fetus are unknown.
The researchers are continuing to draw the epigenetic map of gestational CBD exposure and its impact on youth and adults. In the future, they hope to expand behavioral studies to include measures of sociability and drug reward, which are important for diseases like autism spectrum disorder and substance use disorder, respectively. They also plan to repeat these measurements in adolescent offspring in order to determine whether abnormalities are already present at an earlier age or whether they develop later.
“CBD use has exploded in recent years, yet we still don’t have a clear picture of its impact on the brain, especially during development,” said study director Christopher Faulk, an assistant professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. “We show here that use during pregnancy can permanently impact the resulting offspring in adulthood and potentially for the rest of their lives.”
“The effects we observed on memory and anxiety were in 12-week-old mouse offspring, a time that approximates human young adulthood, and is cause for concern,” said study co-author and project lead Nicole Wanner, a post-doctoral fellow in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “DNA methylation marks in the brain are largely set during fetal development, and the presence of CBD during that process appears to direct certain permanent changes. We were surprised at the extent that CBD linked gene pathways were associated with neurological disorders, and expect future work will be needed to understand how fetal exposure to CBD impacts long-term brain function and mental health.”
The research team, made up of scientists at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Animal Science and College of Veterinary Medicine, began by using a human-relevant dose that is typical in adults purchasing CBD over the counter for a variety of ailments. Next, the team treated pregnant mice daily throughout pregnancy and lactation until the pups were weaned. The offspring were followed into adulthood without any additional CBD, at which time they were measured for persistent behavioral and molecular impacts of CBD.