Is it safe to use CBD oil during pregnancy?

Owing largely to the increase in understanding about cannabis and its potential to treat many difficult-to-treat ailments, Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has come to be accepted as alternative medicine. 

Besides, several recent research work has prompted scientists, governments of numerous countries, and the common people to accept, understand and give credit to the benefits of cannabinoids, especially CBD.

However, it has also been found that some cannabinoids, like Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can some adverse effects on babies, and hence on pregnant and nursing women. 

It is noteworthy here that a particular composition of medical marijuana (Epidiolex) has been successfully tested on children above the age of 4, suffering from some rare forms of epilepsy and found to be very effective in controlling and suppressing seizures associated with these conditions. However, a baby’s constitution isn’t designed to cope with cannabinoids as well as older children or adults are. 

So there are certainly some safety concerns regarding the use of CBD oil products, especially the full-spectrum variants, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, owing to the possibility of the presence of THC in those products. 

Possible Risks Of using CBD Oil For Pregnant Women 

Have you heard of women becoming allergic to certain foods during pregnancy? Some common foods and drinks that are normally well tolerated seem to have quite harsh effects on some women when they are pregnant. 

Several other allergens also act up only during pregnancy. For instance, some specific kinds of smells, dog or cat hair, and a bunch of things to which people don’t normally give much thought. 

CBD may be an otherwise well-tolerated substance. However, one cannot always know for sure if or how this substance will affect the baby growing within a woman’s womb. 

Besides, there is always the risk of your CBD oil containing THC. Even if present in traces, it could have quite severe effects on a baby’s body. These include stillbirth, defects in the brain and the neuronal networks of an unborn child, infant’s cognitive development, apart from other complications that may need neonatal intensive care, like low birth weight.  

Apart from THC, owing to the booming industry, you can never be sure if the brand you’re using is screened for other contaminants, like pesticides and heavy metals. 

Besides, there isn’t sufficient scientific evidence to prove the safety of CBD on the newborns and fetuses. This is because no one wants to experiment with pregnant women and newborns, due to the obvious risks. 

Another aspect to be considered is that sufficient research material isn’t available on how CBD interacts with medicines taken by pregnant women. 

Additionally, the already-known side effects, like diarrhea, nausea, dryness of mouth, low blood pressure, or changes in appetite or weight, can put additional stress on an expecting mother’s health. 

Just in case, you have used any CBD-based products or consumed any CBD-infused food before finding out about your pregnancy, don’t panic. Inform your pediatrician. If you were using CBD for treating symptoms of any condition or ailment, your doctor can prescribe an alternative medication for them – that will be effective, yet safe for both you and your unborn child.  

What The Science Says about CBD & Pregnancy 

No research has been done on the effects of CBD on unborn babies, mostly due to the obvious risks. However, given the fact that quite a large number of people worldwide are marijuana users, there is definite proof of the ill-effects of THC on fetuses and newborns. 

Owing to the perceivable effects, scientists have carried out some clinical trials on pregnant women who were marijuana users. 

However, this does not mean that all cannabinoids are necessarily dangerous for the unborn child. We have seen how the two substances – THC and CBD – differ in their effects on the human body and mind. However, we cannot be sure in the absence of any scientific proof. 

  • In a 2014 meta-analysis of 24 separate studies, “Prenatal exposure to cannabis and maternal and child health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis” [1], published in the BMJ Open in 2016, researchers at the University of Arizona found that fetuses exposed to THC inevitably end up having lower birth weight and have double probability of needing neonatal intensive care. 
  • Another 2011 study, published in the Trends in Pharmacological Sciences [2], revealed that THC hinders the in utero development of neuronal networks, causing birth defects in the nervous system. A team of three neuroscientists from different parts of the world found that THC attaches with the cannabinoid receptors of the mother and the fetus, keeps their endocannabinoid system activated for a longer period than normal, subsequently hijacking the signals to prompt molecular rearrangements that lead to faulty wiring of the neuronal networks.   
  • A 2017 study, published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology [3], gave evidence of THC negatively impacting an infant’s cognitive development when exposed to it during prenatal or perinatal stages. The fetus also runs the risk of stillbirths. In the study, University of Colorado researcher George Sam Wang pointed out how the legalization of cannabis is negatively impacting the pediatric population. 
  • A thesis paper on “Prenatal, Perinatal, and Neonatal Exposure to Cannabis” [4], published in a book “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research”, cited various scientific studies to indicate how dangerous it is for pregnant women to use marijuana in any form. However, the chapter held no specific information on the effects of CBD on expecting mothers. 

While it is obvious that most studies so far have focused on the effects of THC on pregnant women, there are hardly any studies to back claims that CBD is safe for pregnant women or fetal health, except one, that indirectly seems to suggest that there may be issues with the pregnancy if the mother uses CBD during pregnancy. 

  • According to an ex vivo study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2013 [5], CBD enhances the permeability of the human placenta barrier, suggesting that the unborn child could be in danger. Enhanced permeability increases the risk of harmful substances entering the fetus’s body through the placenta wall.

Nonetheless, there are a couple of other studies that seem to show the positive effects of CBD on the unborn child. 

  • A 2017 study [6], published in the European Neuropsychopharmacology, indicated that administering mother rats with CBD during pregnancy reduces the risk of behavioral and memory issues in the fetus from exposure to infection.
  • Another study [7], published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research in 2018, showed similar results. The researchers indicated that CBD prevents inflammation among pregnant rats and has a positive impact on the intestinal tract of the developing offspring.

However, these studies still do not definitively establish that CBD is either harmful or beneficial to the health of a pregnant woman or her unborn child. 

Possible Benefits Of Using CBD During Pregnancy

Motherhood is a wonderful experience, but it can also be the cause of extreme anxiety and pain. 

Although during pregnancy, a woman’s body is naturally (hormonally) buffered from different issues that ail a woman’s physical health, it is often seen that these issues can wreak havoc on an expecting mother’s mind and body as well. 

And then there is the usual morning sickness! Besides, some women encounter issues sleeping during pregnancy, especially during the third semester of their term (7-9 months of pregnancy). 

All these issues can be treated with CBD oil. However, owing to the several concerns discussed earlier, it is impossible to know for sure if CBD will help or harm a pregnant woman and her unborn child. 

Using CBD During Pregnancy

It is difficult to be sure if CBD is good or bad during pregnancy, although many expecting mothers do use CBD during their pregnancy, while many others are tempted to do so, and are probably reading this blog to find out if it is safe! 

Well, if you must use it, first consult your physician and weigh the consequences. You can follow these simple steps to stay safe while using CBD during pregnancy: 

  1. Consult your pediatrician; ask him about both the benefits and risks of using CBD during pregnancy – to both you and the fetus. Find out everything you can about all possible interactions with your existing medications.
  2. Ensure the CBD product you choose to use does not contain THC, solvents or any contaminants, which can do more damage than good. Only trust brands that make their CoAs public (third-party lab test results). 
  3. Start with a very low CBD dose (as low as 5mg), just to be careful.
  4. Keep a close watch on any and all changes in your health. Any small reaction or change needs to be recorded to assess if you are being benefited or harmed. In case you do, stop using it and see your doctor again. 

During pregnancy, your body and mind are both very vulnerable – the reason why a lot of women look for ways to relieve their symptoms associated with pregnancy or otherwise. All of your senses would be heightened during pregnancy; so much so, you may even need to take something to calm your nerves and catch some shut-eye! 

So call on your doctor, and take his recommendations seriously. 

Natural Alternatives To CBD During Pregnancy

For a drug-free pregnancy, sans the discomfort and anxiety, try out these simple options:

  • Nausea: Thought or smell of food may make your stomach turn, but snacking on a variety of tasty treats can help ebb the feeling. It’s best to keep eating small meals and never go on an empty stomach. But make sure you eat healthy, like soups, non-spicy, crackers that aren’t too salty, or fruits that go well with your stomach. Ginger and lemon are good too! Find something that has these infused in them. 
  • Insomnia: Try a warm bubble bath, foot massages, or warm milk to soothe your nerves. These promote sleep.  
  • Anxiety or depression: This is a natural reaction for most women. Pregnancy makes a woman more emotional than usual. Try the above options and a bit of therapy. Talk it out. It helps too. 
  • Pain, inflammation, and cramps: If you want to avoid CBD or any other over-the-counter pharmaceutical drug, try some yoga and light walking. 

If these don’t help, you can always ask for your doctor for a bit of help. But in all earnestness, these natural, drug-free options can, at times, be more effective and safer than any drug – natural or chemical. 

One must be careful during their pregnancy and never pop pills or even use a drug as safe and natural as cannabidiol oil without asking your doctor first. 


Research citations:

  1. Prenatal exposure to cannabis and maternal and child health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis; BMJ Open. April 5, 2016; JKL Gunn, CB Rosales, KE Center, A Nuñez, SJ Gibson, C Christ, JE Ehiri;
  2. Molecular model of cannabis sensitivity in developing neuronal circuits; Trends in Pharmacological Sciences; Volume 32, Issue 9, September 2011, Pages 551-561; Erik Keimpema (European Neuroscience Institute at Aberdeen, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK), Ken Mackie (Gill Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA), Tibor Harkany (Division of Molecular Neurobiology, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institutet, S-17177 Stockholm, Sweden);
  3. Pediatric Concerns Due to Expanded Cannabis Use: Unintended Consequences of Legalization; Journal of Medical Toxicology; May 2, 2016; George Sam Wang, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, 13123 E 16th Ave B251, Aurora, CO 80045 USA;
  4. Prenatal, Perinatal, and Neonatal Exposure to Cannabis; The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda; Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); January 12, 2017; 
  5. Cannabidiol enhances xenobiotic permeability through the human placental barrier by direct inhibition of breast cancer resistance protein: an ex vivo study; American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Volume 209, Issue 6, December 2013; Presented in poster format at the 33rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, San Francisco, CA, Feb. 11-16, 2013; Valeria Feinshtein MMed Sc, Offer Erez MD, Zvi Ben-Zvi PhD, Tamar Eshkoli MD, Boaz Sheizaf MD, Eyal Sheiner MD, PhD, Gershon Holcberg MD; 
  6. Cannabidiol rescues glutamatergic, memory and social interaction deficits following prenatal infection: a follow-up in female offspring; European Neuropsychopharmacology; Volume 27, Supplement 4, October 2017, Page S890; A.L.Osborne, N Solowij, I Babic, XF Huang, K Weston-Green;
  7. Maternal administration of cannabidiol promotes an anti-inflammatory effect on the intestinal wall in a gastroschisis rat model; Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research; Ribeirão Preto; March 15, 2018; GH Callejas, RL Figueira, FLL Gonçalves, FAP Volpe, AW Zuardi, JA Crippa, JE Hallak, L Sbragia;
Author Details
Senior Editor & Researcher , Greenthevoteok
Matt Hansel is a Medical Practitioner, who has been writing and researching about cannabis since 2014.  His popular quotes which we like are: \"Don\'t use CBD oil for a cure, use it as a precaution\"  \"CBD should be considered as any other vitamin supplement and your body needs it!\"