Can You Use CBD While Pregnant?

Many think CBD is safe because it lacks the same effects as THC, but research shows that CBD use during pregnancy can be harmful to the fetus long after birth.

hemp plant
Photo: Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

Touted for offering numerous benefits, from pain relief to stress management, CBD, or cannabidiol, has gone from the obscure to the mainstream. Many believe that taking CBD oil is safe because it doesn't make you "high" the way THC does.

But can you use CBD while pregnant? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly advises against pregnant and breastfeeding people using CBD. Long-term research shows that CDB can have negative impacts on an unborn baby that can follow them all the way to adulthood.

Keep reading to learn more about what CBD is, why pregnant and breastfeeding people should avoid it, plus tips on other, safer ways to find relief from stress and pregnancy symptoms.

What Is CBD?

CBD comes from marijuana or hemp plants (these are two distinct plants from the same species, Cannabis sativa). When people think of marijuana, they likely think of THC, the psychoactive chemical that makes it famous. CBD and THC are present in both marijuana and hemp plants; however, hemp has such a minuscule amount of THC that it cannot intoxicate.

CBD oil is produced from hemp plants and is used to relieve stress and minor pain, which may be why it has become popular to take CBD while pregnant.

Popular products such as CBD mocktails as an alternative to wine, caring for sore muscles with a CBD salve, or soaking in a tub with a CBD-laced bath bomb are particularly appealing for their stress-reducing effects.

But just because CBD doesn't make you feel high doesn't mean it is safe to consume or use while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Is CBD Legal?

In 2018, the United States federal government passed a Farm Bill that made a legal distinction between hemp and marijuana. CBD, according to the Farm Bill, could be legal as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. They also legalized allowing the product to cross state lines and giving the green light to grow hemp anywhere in the US; however, that stipulation came with plenty of caveats. While hemp was made federally legal, that doesn't mean it is legal in all states. The Farm Bill expressly gave states the power to choose how to control hemp and CBD, which is why CDB isn't legal in all 50 states yet.

According to WiseVoter's interactive map that shows which states have legalized CBD, it is legal in many states and conditionally legal in others. In states where CBD is legal, CBD must contain less than 0.3% THC. In other states, the legality of CBD is conditioned based on how the product is used. For example, in some states, you need a medical marijuana license or a medical doctor's prescription, but otherwise, CBD is illegal in that state.

States where CBD oil is legal for recreational use, include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington

Laws restricting CBD are still evolving, so check with your state laws to find out what is legal—and what is not.

Can You Use CBD While Pregnant?

CBD use during pregnancy is shown to have negative, long-term mood and cognitive impacts in babies that follow them through adulthood and potentially for the rest of their lives. The FDA strongly advises against using CBD in pregnant and/or breastfeeding people.

With the exception of one FDA-approved CBD drug for use in two severe, rare forms of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, CBD is not considered safe. The FDA cites three known general risks of taking CBD—pregnant or not:

  • Liver damage
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Harmful interactions with other drugs

Lab research shows that CBD negatively impacts mood and cognitive function in baby riodents and that those effects can remain long after birth and into adulthood. Scientists at the University of Minnesota used a "human-relevant dose" of CBD on pregnant rodents. They found that not only did CBD impact mood and cognition in baby rodents after birth, but the risk for these negative impacts continued long after CBD exposure ceased. In other words, any exposure to CBD during pregnancy can potentially harm an unborn human baby too.

"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," Christopher Faulk, study director and an assistant professor in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences said in a press release by the University of Minnesota. "We show here that use during pregnancy can permanently impact the resulting offspring in adulthood and potentially for the rest of their lives."

Can You Use CBD While Breastfeeding?

The FDA strongly advises against using CBD while breastfeeding or pumping as it is not considered safe. There are serious questions about how CBD can adversely affect breastmilk production and the health and well-being of a baby exposed to CBD through breastmilk.

The FDA warns that studies have shown that high levels of CBD in pregnant test animals cause problems in the reproductive system of male fetuses. Furthermore, the FDA also points out that CBD carries an increased risk to the fetus and breastmilk because it can contain harmful substances such as:

  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Bacteria
  • Fungus

The FDA also questions the effects of CBD through products such as food, cosmetics, and supplements and whether or not it is safe to use these types of products in combination.

Ways To Relieve Stress That Don't Use CBD

Pregnancy can invite stress thanks to elevated hormones and those unpleasant symptoms like morning sickness, food aversions, not to mention all those weird aches and pains. But instead of reaching for CBD, consider some of these classic, tried-and-true ways to lower your stress and nurture calm.

Morning sickness and food aversions

If morning sickness and food aversions are stressing you out, try changing your approach to eating. Here are a few quick ways to curb those waves of nausea.

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
  • Stay away from foods with strong smells or flavors that make you feel green.
  • Go for bland foods like bread, pasta, and rice that can help settle your belly.
  • Stay hydrated by sipping water throughout the day—water can help keep nausea away.
  • Keep ginger on hand for when nausea strikes.

Pregnancy fatigue

Pregnancy fatigue can feel like you just got the wind knocked right out of your sails. But when you have a mile-long checklist, feeling exhausted while pregnant can make everything feel much more stressful. Here are a few ways to beat that fatigue and lower your stress.

  • Add exercise to your daily routine to help your energy.
  • Stay hydrated—keep a water bottle with you throughout the day.
  • Try to reduce your activities by asking others to help with errands and chores.
  • Schedule a daily nap to help get more rest.
  • Find ways to reduce stress, which can eat up your energy.

Pregnancy aches and pains

All of those stretching ligaments and sore muscles can leave you feeling wiped out. These simple and effective tips relieve common pregnancy-related aches and pains. Ask your doctor if these activities are safe for you and your unique situation.

  • Book a pregnancy massage.
  • Sign up for a prenatal yoga class.
  • Buy some supportive shoes to help your back.
  • Check your posture when sitting or standing—slouching can cause soreness.
  • Invest in a body pillow to sleep more comfortably on your side.

General stress and anxiety

Sometimes pregnancy can elevate your stress and anxiety simply because expecting can bring a lot of uncertainty. Try adopting a few of these stress-reducing activities that you can use long after pregnancy to help center and calm your nerves.

  • Try a guided meditation app to calm your stressful thoughts.
  • Practice mindfulness to help slow yourself down and recenter your thoughts and feelings.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene; being well-rested can help ease stress and anxiety symptoms.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your feelings and worries.
  • Make healthy diet and fitness choices.

Key Takeaway

Research shows that CBD is not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding people. While studies are still evolving and many questions about the long-lasting, negative effects of CBD on the fetus and breastmilk are being asked, the FDA strongly advises against using CBD products of any kind while pregnant or breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor for safer alternatives to treat pregnancy symptoms such as stress, fatigue, and morning sickness.

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  1. Developmental Cannabidiol Exposure Increases Anxiety and Modifies Genome-Wide Brain DNA Methylation in Adult Female Mice. Clinical Epigenetics. 2021.

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