Is It Safe to Use Marijuana or CBD During Pregnancy?
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Not long ago it was virtually unheard of to use cannabis to treat pregnancy symptoms. But now that medical marijuana is legal in 38 states plus DC (and recreational marijuana is legal in over 20 states), more and more pregnant folks are turning to weed to curb their nausea, relieve pregnancy-related pain, and quell anxiety. In fact, a 2019 report in JAMA found that over 12% of pregnant women used cannabis during their first trimester. Still other reports suggest that up to 36% of pregnant people use marijuana. These numbers, however, likely don’t even tell the whole story. After all, yet another study found that moms-to-be were about twice as likely to screen positive for marijuana than to actually state that they were using cannabis. Translation: Not everyone is ‘fessing up.
Whether you’re thinking about using marijuana during pregnancy—or you’re currently using weed while pregnant—chances are, you’re asking yourself: Is marijuana actually safe to use during pregnancy? Here, we delve into the answers.
Why are pregnant people using marijuana?
By and large, pregnant people most often use cannabis in pregnancy to help alleviate pregnancy-related symptoms or to treat issues that existed prior to pregnancy. A 2022 report in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health found that those who experience nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and folks with depression or other mental health concerns are more likely to use cannabis while pregnant than those without these conditions. Here are some of the most common pre-existing and pregnancy conditions that pregnant people are treating with cannabis:
Researchers also noted that, for some, using marijuana during pregnancy may be a method of “harm reduction.” That means, some expecting parents turned to marijuana to help them stop using other, perhaps more harmful, substances.
Can marijuana help morning sickness in pregnancy?
While chemotherapy-related nausea is considered a “qualifying condition” for medical marijuana, morning sickness during pregnancy is not. Even so, a study of 400 cannabis dispensaries in Colorado found that nearly 70% recommended cannabis products to treat nausea in the first trimester. The thing is, there are simply not enough studies out there to determine if marijuana can actually help morning sickness in pregnancy—and if it’s safe to use cannabis to treat nausea in pregnancy. In fact, some experts note that chronic use of cannabis might even lead to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which is marked by repeated and severe bouts of vomiting. With that, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has stated that marijuana does not, in fact, help manage morning sickness symptoms. If you’re struggling with morning sickness, learn about foods that can quell the nausea during pregnancy and don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for help relieving symptoms.
Is marijuana safe to use during pregnancy?
Approximately 70% of pregnant people believe there’s only a slight risk—or no risk—of using marijuana once or twice a week while pregnant, according to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Those assumptions, however, are just that: assumptions. In truth, we don’t know much about the impact of using marijuana during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Because there’s insufficient health and safety data, ACOG, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend refraining from using marijuana during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Here are some of the reasons to avoid marijuana in pregnancy:
Research shows that THC, the active chemical in marijuana, quickly and easily crosses the placenta.
Much of the existing research on weed use in pregnancy is inconclusive.
A great deal of existing research on cannabis use in pregnancy came from a time when marijuana was far less potent than it is today.
Some data shows that using pot while pregnant may possibly increase risk for low birth weight, preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, and miscarriage.
Other studies suggest that using marijuana during pregnancy may possibly be linked to problems with attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior in children down the road.
Is it safe to take edibles during pregnancy?
While the body processes edible marijuana differently than cannabis that’s smoked, that does not make it any safer. In fact, because it takes longer to feel the effects of edibles, ACOG warns that those who take edible marijuana may consume more cannabis in order to feel the effects more quickly.
Is medical marijuana safe to use during pregnancy?
Medical marijuana is not safer than recreational marijuana. Neither recreational nor medical marijuana are currently regulated in the same way that pharmaceuticals are. That means even in states with comprehensive medical laws, cannabis products might not have accurate dosing or content labels. The bottom line: If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not continue or start using medical marijuana without checking with your healthcare provider, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Is CBD safe to use during pregnancy?
Pregnant or not, people often turn to cannabidiol, or CBD, to treat issues like anxiety, insomnia, or pain, but to date, the strongest evidence is for its effectiveness in treating certain types of childhood epilepsy. (CBD is another active ingredient in cannabis that’s either lab-made or derived from the hemp plant—and it doesn’t offer the “high” that goes hand-in-hand with THC.)
Right now not much is known about the safety or the efficacy of using CBD during pregnancy and that’s why the FDA advises against using CBD in any form during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Despite this, 42% of certified nurse midwives and 54% of doulas surveyed would consider using CBD to reduce anxiety in women during pregnancy. And 12% of anesthesiologists would consider using CBD to reduce nausea during pregnancy, according to a 2019 survey.
If you’re wondering “What’s the harm in using CBD while pregnant?” here are the FDA’s reasons:
There are no comprehensive studies on the effects of using CBD during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
It’s likely that some amount of CBD can be transferred to babies through breastmilk.
There’s also potential for CBD products to be contaminated with THC and other substances that may pose a risk to the expecting parent, baby-to-be, or nursing baby.
High CBD doses have been shown to cause liver damage.
CBD can interact with other meds you’re taking, such as blood thinners.
Are hemp seeds safe to use during pregnancy?
Yes! Recently, the FDA completed an evaluation of hemp seed-derived ingredients and had “no objections” to the use of hemp seeds in food. That’s because THC and CBD are mainly found in hemp flowers, leaves, and stems, not in hemp seeds. While there can be trace amounts of THC or CBD in hemp seeds, it’s not enough to raise any concerns for pregnant or breastfeeding folks.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis and CBD Use in Pregnancy
Currently, there’s no research showing that it’s safe to use marijuana or CBD during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. That means, if you’re currently using any form of cannabis to treat pregnancy related symptoms, a pre-existing issue, or if you’re using for pleasure, talk to your healthcare provider about safe alternatives.
You May Also Be Interested In…
- Do You Have to Pump and Dump?
- How a Smoke-Free House Can Help Reduce Risk of SIDS
- Which Cold Medicines are Safe for Breastfeeding?
- Is It Safe to Have Sex During the Third Trimester?
- National Conference of State Legislatures: State Cannabis Policy Enactment Database
- Self-reported Medical and Nonmedical Cannabis Use Among Pregnant Women in the United States. June 2019
- Pregnant People’s Perspectives On Cannabis Use During Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Integrative Mixed-Methods Research Synthesis. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. April 2022
- Trends in Self-reported and Biochemically Tested Marijuana Use Among Pregnant Females in California From 2009-2016. December 2017
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Marijuana Use During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding FAQs
- Recommendations From Cannabis Dispensaries About First-Trimester Cannabis Use. Obstetrics & Gynecology. June 2018
- Cannabis use during pregnancy and postpartum. Canadian Family Physician. February 2020
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG): Marijuana and Pregnancy
- Prevalence and patterns of marijuana use among pregnant and nonpregnant women of reproductive age. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. March 2015
- Committee Opinion No. 722: Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Lactation. Obstetrics & Gynecology. October 2017
- Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Implications for Neonatal and Childhood Outcomes. September 2018
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA): What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding
- Marijuana Use in Pregnancy: A Review. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. July 2019
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Pregnancy: What You Need to Know About Marijuana Use and Pregnancy
- Characteristics of Marijuana Use During Pregnancy — Eight States, Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, 2017. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). August 2020
- Early pregnancy cannabis exposure and adverse pregnancy outcomes. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. January 2023
- National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Drug Abuse: Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report, Can marijuana use during and after pregnancy harm the baby?
- Harvard Medical School: Cannabidiol (CBD): What we know and what we don't
- FDA: FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived from Marijuana to Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy
- FDA: What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD
- American Society of Anesthesiologists: Many women and health care providers assume CBD safe during pregnancy despite lack of research, surveys show
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.