The use of CBD oil is a popular trend, touted as a remedy for everything from anxiety to nausea. But since it comes from the cannabis plant, is it really okay to try if you're pregnant?
CBD oil seems to be all the rage these days as a treatment for a whole range of ailments, including stress and pain. The growing acceptance and legality of marijuana in many states has unleashed a flood of CBD oil products on the market. You can find CBD-spiked lattes, gums, candies, lotions and beauty products almost everywhere, with fans hyping their healing powers.
But none have been approved by the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) or regulated in terms of dosage, formulation or method of delivery. And though CBD oil, which comes from the cannabis plant, doesn't seem to be addictive, it has not been shown to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
What is CBD oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting the essence with a neutral, usually edible oil. Unlike THC, pot's most active ingredient — and the one that gets you high — CBD is touted for its medicinal properties but doesn't give you a buzz. People use CBD oil by putting a few drops under the tongue, applying it to the skin or inhaling a vapor made from the oil. Proponents say it has a calming effect that helps with stress and sleep.
What is CBD oil used for?
Most people who use CBD oil are seeking relief from insomnia, pain, anxiety, depression or nausea. While there is research on its use as a treatment for a variety of more serious conditions, including epilepsy, schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, anxiety and even traumatic brain injury, doctors warn that it can interfere with other medications and may cause side effects including depression.
Is CBD oil safe to use during pregnancy?
While there's scant research on the use of CBD oil during pregnancy, experts say to avoid it. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy should not use marijuana or any of its byproducts, including medical marijuana. Studies show that marijuana use during pregnancy can lead to smaller babies with a lower birth weight and other unwanted outcomes. For that reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), ACOG and the U.S. surgeon general all warn pregnant women not to smoke or vape marijuana or use any byproducts.
Don't be alarmed if you sipped a CBD-spiked soda before learning you're pregnant, however (but do mention it to your practitioner). Though there is evidence that the active ingredients in marijuana can harm a developing baby, the existing research has looked mainly at repeated, regular pot use among pregnant women.
If you are pregnant and tempted to try CBD oil, the best thing to do is to discuss it with your doctor. He or she can offer other, pregnancy-safe ways to improve your symptoms, and advise you of all the potential risks and side effects of CBD oil — both for you and the baby.
What are the possible risks or downsides of using CBD oil while pregnant?
Comprehensive research on healthy pregnant women and CBD doesn't yet exist. But even the lowest-dose products aren't considered safe during pregnancy. Research shows that when moms smoke or eat marijuana, chemicals cross the placenta and reach the fetus. Exposure to marijuana could disrupt normal fetal brain development and increase your risk of giving birth to a smaller or even stillbirth baby, although there is no data to suggest CBD oil alone carries the same risks.
Nonetheless, CBD oil is a new and largely unregulated market. There are scores of case reports of products marketed as "pure" CBD contaminated with substances you want nowhere near a growing baby, including THC, pesticides, toxic metals and bacteria.
Is CBD oil safe to use while breastfeeding? What are some of the risks?
While there are no studies on the use of CBD oil use while breastfeeding, experts advise against that too. Studies show that chemicals ingested during marijuana use can be passed through breast milk, potentially affecting your little one (though there are no studies that directly show how CBD oil could affect a nursing baby). Another reason to skip CBD oil while nursing: Using it could make you feel sleepy or slightly intoxicated, so you risk having impaired judgement while caring for your child.
What are alternatives to CBD oil when I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
During pregnancy, your body creates a warm, nurturing environment for your baby — and a cascade of uncomfortable symptoms for you. Surging hormones, shifting fluids and a burgeoning bump in your midsection can cause nausea (in the morning and anytime, especially during the first trimester), insomnia, moodiness and anxiety. Coping with drugs or alcohol isn't safe, but there are a range of options to manage your symptoms and help you feel better:
Nausea. One surprising strategy for nipping nausea in the bud is to eat, even if the thought of food turns your stomach. Try munching on smaller snacks and meals more often, and make sure your stomach never gets completely empty (that's when you're more likely to retch).
Keep plenty of food on hand. Ask someone who isn't dizzy with nausea to run to the store and stock your kitchen with tummy-soothers like plain crackers, bananas and soups, and make sure you keep something to nosh on by your bedside. Avoid highly spiced, fried or greasy foods, which can upset your stomach even if you aren't pregnant. Some moms-to-be swear by ginger — in candies or steeped and sipped as tea. Others say crunching ice or sucking fresh lemon juice helps soothe their stomachs.
If these and other drug-free queasiness cures don't do the trick, ask your doctor about prescription medication for severe nausea. And remember — there is no evidence that marijuana in any form is helpful with morning sickness.
Insomnia. If you've already tried warm milk, bubble baths and foot massages to soothe you to sleep during your pregnancy, you can ask your doctor about over-the-counter or even prescription medications that are safe to take. No matter how exhausted you feel, don't take any sleep aid — including herb teas or "natural" supplements — without consulting your practitioner.
Anxiety and depression. Moodiness, irrational fears and crying fits can hit when you least expect them, even if you're thrilled about your pregnancy. Surging hormones, your changing body, social isolation and lack of sleep can all conspire to make you feel worried, stressed or down. What to do? Studies suggest talk therapy, light therapy and making sure you take care of yourself can help alleviate your feelings. Share how you feel about with your practitioner, and don't take any medications without her okay. Some antidepressants are safe for use during pregnancy.
Carrying a baby and caring for a newborn are intense experiences, both emotionally and physically. But don't succumb to the urge to try CBD oil. There's evidence to suggest it isn't safe for you or your baby, and there are plenty of other ways to help you navigate the less pleasant side effects of pregnancy and the postpartum stage.