The question about whether CBD oil is safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding can be a controversial topic. So right off the bat, we want to make it clear that there is not yet enough medical research for us to give any definitive guidance or advice.
Hopefully this will change over time as CBD oil and cannabis in general gain more mainstream acceptance and more research is done. In the meantime, we highly recommend that you consult your obstetrician before starting or continuing any cannabis-based product while pregnant or breastfeeding.
While we can’t tell you for sure whether it’s safe or not, we can share the information that we found in researching this topic to help you be more informed.
The 3 Main Categories of CBD Oil
Before we get into our findings, let’s quickly clarify the 3 main categories of CBD oil. This is relevant because most of the limited research that exists on this topic has studied the impacts of marijuana on pregnancy. And most of the concerns stem from the effect of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the “high” effect commonly associated with marijuana.
(1) CBD oil from marijuana – these products typically have high levels of THC. Any CBD oil with more than 0.3% THC can only be legally purchased from a licensed dispensary in a state where marijuana is legal.
(2) Full-spectrum CBD oil from hemp – these products are typically high in CBD and include other cannabinoids but only have trace amounts of THC. The THC content must be less than 0.3% to be legally sold online and in local stores.
(3) Broad-spectrum or isolate CBD oil from hemp – these products are typically high in CBD but have undetectable levels of THC based on manufacturer lab testing.
We can’t say for sure that any potential risks are lower with hemp-derived CBD oil products that are low in THC or have 0% THC. But it’s worth making the distinction so you are aware of the differences.
CBD Oil Use During Pregnancy
Since you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already heard of the potential benefits of CBD hemp oil and may be considering it yourself. The list of the most popular reasons that people use hemp-derived CBD oil includes many conditions that are common during pregnancy. These include nausea, anxiety, insomnia, lower back pain and others.
Many members of our CBD Oil Users Group on Facebook have told us that they’ve successfully used CBD hemp oil products to alleviate pregnancy symptoms with no ill effects. But these are anecdotal experiences that obviously aren’t supported by clinical research.
The research study most often mentioned on the topic of the use of cannabis during pregnancy is a 2011 study performed by Mohammed Hayatbakhsh. His conclusion was that “use of cannabis during pregnancy strongly and significantly predicted negative birth outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth, small size for gestational age, and increased admission to the NICU.” A concern in the study was that THC crosses the placental barrier and directly affects the fetus.
Other Perspectives on the Use of Cannabis During Pregnancy
Two researchers, based on first-hand observation and statistical data, have come to their own conclusions regarding cannabinoids in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Dr. Stacey Kerr is a medical doctor in Northern California where cannabis use is common in the local culture. She questions some of the findings of past studies, including the 2011 study mentioned above, and notes that she has not observed similar results in her clients.
Since Dr. Kerr’s pregnant patients could speak honestly to her, she was able to keep detailed patient records and watch the children grow. She discovered no adverse effects of THC use in the children, but she did see complications from alcohol and other kinds of drugs.
Dr. Melanie Dreher, Dean of the University of Iowa’s School of Nursing and a Ph.D. from Columbia in medical anthropology, did extensive research on cannabis use by pregnant women in Jamaica.
Dr. Dreher found that the children of women who used cannabis were more alert, stable and well adjusted than children of mothers who didn’t. In a five-year follow-up study, the children of cannabis users showed no adverse outcomes.
Potential Drug Testing Concerns
Drug tests are sometimes administered to expectant mothers during pregnancy or while in labor. As with all CBD users, we recommend that you not use any CBD oil product if a positive drug test would have catastrophic consequences.
There are also reports of newborns being drug-tested, especially if illicit drug use is suspected by the mother. If THC is found in the baby’s urine, the doctor may choose to report this to Child Protective Services. THC can remain in urine for 2 to 3 weeks.
Some states have mandatory reporting requirements for finding THC in infants. But in a review of studies done in 2013, researchers Hill and Reed concluded that the effects of THC were so minor that they did not warrant mandatory reporting.
CBD Oil Use for Postpartum Depression
There is growing clinical evidence that CBD oil can help relieve depression and one frequent condition after the birth of the baby is Postpartum Depression (PPD). One conservative estimate is that 1 in 7 women experience it. But those are only the reported cases. Not all cases are reported. The overall percentage may be much higher.
The two most common ways of treating PPD are talk therapy and taking antidepressants. CBD oil offers an alternative that doesn’t typically cause weight gain or other symptoms commonly associated with taking antidepressants and no possibility of addiction.
Using CBD Oil While Breastfeeding
Breast milk contains natural cannabinoids produced by the mother’s own endocannabinoid system. A newborn baby learns to eat as a function of that system. Thirty years after the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, researchers learned that the CB1 receptors develop in week 14 of gestation.
However, if a mother is taking CBD oil with THC, traces of THC are fed to the infant through her breast milk. Since so little research has been done about the long-term effects of cannabidiol in breast milk, there is no scientifically supported conclusions yet about what effects that milk will have on the child later in life.
Like most questions about CBD use, experts agree that more research is needed to reach definitive conclusions about its use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The quality of the research matters. As both Dr. Kerr and Dr. Dreher note, you can’t get an accurate assessment of effects if there are negative consequences for reporting authentic findings.
If you’re considering the use of CBD oil during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, we highly recommend that you discuss it with your doctor. You may also benefit from joining our Facebook group to hear about the experiences of others.