JAN 09, 2019 09:58 AM PST

Are CBDs Safe for Pregnant Women?

WRITTEN BY: Amy Loriaux

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has been reported to have amazing health effects, from inflammation to anxiety relief to even cancer prevention. However, in using any kind of supplement, it is always important to keep in mind a special population of potential users: pregnant women. Teratogenic (effects on the developing fetus) effects of some drugs and supplements can cause terrible birth defects. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires several pieces of evidence about teratogenic effects in order to help determine whether a medication is safe for unborn infants.

Source: AL Loriaux

The trouble with CBDs is that, because they are not classified as a drug but instead as a supplement, the FDA can only investigate adverse effects after the fact. Law states that dietary supplements are exempt from pre-testing and are not investigated by the FDA unless there is a complaint after the product hits the market. So, what does the evidence say about CBDs and pregnant women?

Well, not much. A very recent report published by ZME Science highlights the need for more research, any research, into CBD use in pregnant women. That's right, according to the report "there is no study, peer-reviewed or otherwise, that has investigated the effects CBD oil might have on pregnant women or offspring." This is not entirely accurate due to a very recent study on zebrafish (which found developmental effects in newborn fish). Notwithstanding, the rise in use (the CBD market is projected to be a billion-dollar market in just three years, according to Forbes) could be a potential disaster waiting to happen if used in pregnant women.

Another dire warning comes from Dr. James Lozada at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "These [CBD] receptors help our brains develop normally... because of the uncertainty, I recommend not using these products during pregnancy." Nevertheless, the investigation of pregnant women using CBDs is still in its infancy, with different recommendations coming from different scientists studying this problem in their own labs. So as of yet, there is no real consensus in the field about the effects of CBDs in pregnant women.

Photo Source: Pixabay.com

On the other hand, there have been many studies looking at pregnant women's exposure to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis. These studies have had mixed results. Ethnographic studies in the West Indies found that THC exposure does not have any adverse effects on newborn babies, at least, not during the first five years of life. However, peer-reviewed analyses of several studies (i.e. metanalyses) have found that cannabis use can cause babies to have a higher chance of having low birth weights and admittance to the NICU than babies born to mothers who did not smoke cannabis while pregnant.

Yet THC is not CBD. CBD plays a major role in neurological development, which is, unsurprisingly, critical for healthy newborns. In cannabis research today, we can only speculate what could happen to a developing fetus based on what we know about our own endocannabinoid system. While THC binds mainly to the receptors CB1 and CB2, CBD is a different beast. It also binds to CB1 and CB2, but it can bind to other receptors involved in prenatal development.

The overall message is that, until CBD (and cannabis in general) has gone through clinical testing, there is no indication to say one way or the other that CBD oil is safe for unborn fetuses, or for the pregnant woman for that matter. One thing is for certain: it will not hurt to refrain from indulging in any form of cannabis, CBD oil or not, during pregnancy. Many women have gone without cannabis and have had healthy babies. The video below goes over the research on cannabis and pregnancy.

Video Source: Youtube.com

Sources: Journal of Psychopharmacology, www.fda.govwww.zmescience.com, Toxicology Scienceswww.Forbes.com, The West Indian Medical Journal, BMJ Open, British Journal of Pharmacology

About the Author
  • I am compassionate about science. My specialties include neuroscience and psychology. I have over 10 years of biomedical neuroscience research at Arizona State University and the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center.
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