CBD and pregnancy: What you should know
From capsules and cosmetics to oils and creams, CBD has exploded in popularity. But is it safe to use while you’re pregnant or trying to conceive (TTC)? Here’s what’s known so far.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound found in marijuana.1 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CBD can be derived from hemp or non-hemp plants.1 Hemp is any part of the marijuana plant (also called cannabis sativa) that contains no more than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).1 The CDC notes that because little regulation exists, it can be difficult to know if your CBD came from a hemp or non-hemp plant.1 CBD from a non-hemp plant could contain more than 0.3% THC and may not be legal.1
When the U.S. Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, hemp was removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act.2 However, not all states have removed hemp from their state’s-controlled substances act.1 This means that while CBD may be legal in some states, it is still illegal in others. Always check your state’s legislation for the most up-to-date laws.
Is CBD use safe during pregnancy?
Just because CBD is legal in some states doesn’t mean it’s safe to use during pregnancy.1,3 CBD can be found in oils, lotions, cosmetics, capsules and foods.1 And to date, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one CBD product: a prescription drug used to treat a rare form of seizure disorder in children.3 In January 2023, the FDA announced that they will work with Congress to develop federal regulations for CBD products.4
Can you use CBD while pregnant?
The CDC doesn’t recommend it, stating “the potential health effects of using CBD products during pregnancy are currently unknown.”1 The FDA strongly advises against it, stating they are “continuing to collect and study the data on the possible harmful effects of CBD during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. However, based on what we do know, there is significant cause for concern.”3
The research thus far is limited. A 2021 study in Clinical Epigenetics showed that adult female mice exposed to CBD in the womb exhibited changes to their cognitive and affective behavior, including increased anxiety and improved memory behavior.5 And a 2019 study in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences showed that cannabinoid exposure during pregnancy (not just CBD) could affect immune system development.6
Is CBD cream safe during pregnancy?
The FDA strongly advises against using any form of CBD, including creams, while pregnant.3 Some CBD product manufacturers — and users — claim that CBD creams can help with inflammation and pain, and improve anxiety and sleep — all common issues while pregnant! But remember: These products aren’t FDA-approved.3 Additionally, the FDA reports that some CBD products contain contaminants, such as pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria and fungus.3 Remember to always read the product labels for products you intend to use, and discuss any concerns regarding their ingredients with your doctor.
Marijuana: Is it safe during pregnancy?
Marijuana (commonly referred to as weed) is the dried parts of the cannabis plant, including the flowers, leaves, stems and seeds.7 According to the CDC, marijuana contains more than 100 cannabinoids, including CBD, which is not impairing (i.e., it doesn’t alter the mind or cause a “high”), and THC, which is impairing (i.e., it does alter the mind or cause a “high”).7 According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “if you use marijuana during pregnancy, you may be putting your health and the fetus’s health at risk.”8 ACOG recommends abstaining from marijuana if you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant.8
Can you smoke weed while pregnant?
Using marijuana while pregnant can affect a baby’s brain development and increases the risk of a baby being born with a low birth weight or too early.8 Using marijuana while pregnant can also lead to behavioral problems for the baby later in childhood.8 A 2021 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal stated that maternal cannabis use was associated with children who were more anxious and aggressive.9
Using marijuana while pregnant can also impact the parent, resulting in impaired judgement, dizziness (which can increase the risk of falling) and breathing issues and lung damage (if the marijuana is smoked).8
If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, ACOG advises quitting any usage of marijuana for medicinal purposes prior to pregnancy and suggests talking to your doctor to seek out an alternative.10 Some people claim marijuana and THC-containing products help with nausea during early pregnancy. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that individuals should be “counseled about the lack of safety data and the possible adverse effects of THC in these products on the developing fetus and referred to their [healthcare provider] for alternative treatments that have better pregnancy-specific safety data.”11
Does weed affect sperm count?
According to ACOG, marijuana can reduce sperm count and movement.12 A 2021 study in Therapeutic Advances in Urology of 409 men undergoing an evaluation for infertility found that CBD specifically altered sperm shape and function in both past and current marijuana users.13 Additionally, marijuana use also decreased the volume of semen and sperm count.13
CBD products are becoming ever-more popular. But experts agree: Until more definitive research is conducted, treat it like alcohol — and avoid it while TTC and pregnant. The benefits of abstaining outweigh the risks associated with use.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CBD: what you need to know. Updated August 8, 2022. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/featured-topics/CBD.html
- Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agriculture improvement act of 2018 (2018 farm bill). Accessed February 13, 2023. https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/farm-bill
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. What you should know about using cannabis, including CBD, when pregnant or breastfeeding. Updated October 16, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-should-know-about-using-cannabis-including-cbd-when-pregnant-or-breastfeeding
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA concludes that existing regulatory frameworks for foods and supplements are not appropriate for cannabidiol, will work with Congress on a new way forward. Updated January 26, 2023. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-concludes-existing-regulatory-frameworks-foods-and-supplements-are-not-appropriate-cannabidiol
- Wanner NM, Colwell M, Drown C, et al. Developmental cannabidiol exposure increases anxiety and modifies genome-wide brain DNA methylation in adult female mice. Clin Epigenet.2021;13(4). doi: 10.1186/s13148-020-00993-4. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://clinicalepigeneticsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13148-020-00993-4
- Dong C, Chen J, Harrington A, et al. Cannabinoid exposure during pregnancy and its impact on immune function. Cell. Mol. Life. Sci. 2019;76:729-743. doi: 10.1007/s00018-018-2955-0. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00018-018-2955-0
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What we know about marijuana. Updated September 9, 2021. Accessed February 16, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/what-we-know.html
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Marijuana and pregnancy. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/infographics/marijuana-and-pregnancy
- Rompala G, Nomura Y, Hurd YL. Maternal cannabis use is associated with suppression of immune gene networks in placenta and increased anxiety phenotypes in offspring. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2021;118(47). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2106115118. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2106115118
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Marijuana use during pregnancy and lactation. Updated 2021. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2017/10/marijuana-use-during-pregnancy-and-lactation
- Ryan SA, Ammerman SD, O’Connor ME, et al. Marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding: implications for neonatal and childhood outcomes. Pediatrics. 2018;142(3). doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-1889. Accessed February 13, 2023. https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/142/3/e20181889/38625/Marijuana-Use-During-Pregnancy-and-Breastfeeding
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Treating infertility. Updated August 2022. Accessed February 13, 2023 https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/treating-infertility
- Hehemann MC, Raheem OA, Rajanahally S, et al. Evaluation of the impact of marijuana use on semen quality: a prospective analysis. Ther Adv Urol. 2021;13. doi: 10.1177/17562872211032484. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8299873/
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