The use of CBD oil has been all the rage in recent years, thanks to its treatment and relief from a number of ailments including stress and pain. From lotions to beauty treatments, CBD therapeutic products are popping up everywhere. So it’s no surprise that pregnant mamas might reach for a CBD salve to help alleviate any of their uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms, like anxiety, nausea and sore feet.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid in the family of cannabinoids that can be found in marijuana. Unlike THC — which is marijuana’s most active ingredient that leaves you feeling high — CBD is touted for its medicinal usage without leaving you feeling buzzed. “It is the sister that stays home and cleans the house, while the THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid, is the life of the party,” Dr. Mary Clifton, M.D., an NYC-based CBD and Cannabis expert, tells SheKnows.
Why Pregnant Women Might Want to Try it
“While there are pharmaceutical treatments for all these ailments, many health-conscious women want to use more natural treatments wherever possible. As a plant-based supplement, an increasing number of pregnant women are interested in CBD products,” Dr. Cheryl Bugailiskis, Cannabis Specialist at Heally, tells SheKnows.
The reasons are valid.
However, says Bugailiskis, the use of CBD during pregnancy remains “controversial.”
Why it’s controversial
“The FDA released a warning in October 2019 cautioning against the use of cannabis products, including CBD, while pregnant,” says Bugailiskis. “While CBD research remains limited at this time, some animal studies have shown impairment of fetuses when CBD was used. Lack of regulation of CBD products is also a concern – while reputable providers offer quality products, less scrupulous ones have been found to sell products contaminated with harmful chemicals.”
According to Dr. Sarah Melancon, Ph.D, a sociologist and clinical sexologist, who has done extensive research on CBD, sexuality and pregnancy, CBD increases the signaling of the cannabinoid anandamide (AEA), and, as a result, has a dose-dependent effect on aspects related to reproduction, “which is cause for concern,” she says. Melancon says high levels of AEA are associated with miscarriage in humans, particularly in the first trimester. “On the other hand, low levels of AEA help with implantation and placenta development,” she says. “AEA levels stay low during pregnancy, rising during the third trimester of pregnancy 2-4x and are connected with labor onset.” According to Melancon women with preterm labor/birth have higher levels of AEA, and even among premature births, “those with the highest levels of AEA delivered fastest.”
Since CBD can elevate AEA levels, Melancon says using CBD during pregnancy has the potential to cause miscarriage in the first trimester, as well as increased risk of preterm labor and birth.
“This is especially concerning, because many women may be using CBD before they know they are pregnant, which may be contributing to miscarriages,” she says. “More research is needed, but at present a better-safe-than-sorry approach is warranted.”
Studies that are available regarding CBD and pregnancy include women who have chosen to use cannabis during their pregnancies. These studies “support that the use of cannabinoids result in intrauterine growth retardation — stunting the growth of the unborn baby,” says Clifton.
“At this point, studies suggest that there is not only risk to the growth to the fetus in general, but also that early exposure to cannabinoids may impact the developing brain,” she says. “Pregnant women should avoid the use of cannabinoid formulations.” While the research on CBD has remained limited, according to Clifton, the studies done “are consistent that the growth of the baby is affected.”
What can pregnant women use instead?
“There are a number of things that stimulate and balance the tone of encodcannabinoid system (ECS),” says Clifton. “Pinene, for example, from pine trees or more commonly pine nuts or basil, is excellent for the ECS. Limonene from lemons and other citrus is also delicious and helpful. Beta Caryophyllene and the extracts from black pepper support the tone of the ECS marvelously.” She recommends talking with your essential oils expert — as well as those at Boomer Natural Wellness — since they carry products “that support ECS tone without exposure to cannabinoids.”
Looking for something completely natural and safe? Bugailiski says that “many women swear by ginger tea or candies to alleviate nausea. Some herbal teas and natural supplements can help with insomnia, and therapy is always an excellent option for dealing with depression or anxiety.”
A version of this story was published March 2020.
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