If you have, you’re not alone. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, many women and healthcare providers tend to assume that CBD is safe to use, at least as a topical salve, during pregnancy.
While CBD is considered effective for treating many of those symptoms, it remains to be determined whether consuming CBD while pregnant may have an impact on the fetus. The evidence does suggest, however, that avoiding CBD during pregnancy may be your best bet in terms of safety.
In this post, we’ll dive into the current literature regarding CBD and pregnancy. We’ll also explain exactly how CBD ingested by the mother can make its way to the developing fetus.
Unfortunately, there is little conclusive evidence in the current literature regarding CBD and pregnancy. According to one 2020 literature review, this is “thanks to confounding variables such as the utilization of prenatal care, maternal age, and concurrent use of other illicit drugs, tobacco, or alcohol.”
Despite the lack of evidence suggesting that it’s safe to use CBD when you are pregnant, “many women report using CBD oil during pregnancy to reduce severe pregnancy-related nausea,” the review’s authors write, adding that “there is a lack of education and awareness as evidenced by the high prevalence of cannabis consumption during pregnancy.”
As Jointly has previously written, smoking cannabis containing THC while pregnant could be harmful to the developing fetus. Importantly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has otherwise been hesitant to weigh in on the growing popularity of CBD, “has strongly advised against the use of cannabidiol (CBD) in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding,” as Brown University’s Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter (CABL) puts it.
“The same warning applies to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, and marijuana. These warnings apply to the use of these substances in any form,” CABL adds.
More recent studies, which have returned mixed results on whether a mother’s CBD consumption will have any impact at all on the developing fetus, have done little to clarify the matter.
For example, one study published in 2023 examined how exposure to CBD impacted the fetal brain in mice encountered two interesting, sex-based results.
The first finding was that fetal CBD exposure caused male offspring to have increased thermal pain sensitivity (i.e., a lower threshold for when too much heat or cold are perceived as painful). Importantly, the study’s authors state that “CBD metabolites are not detected in pups [8 days after being born], suggesting that fetal CBD exposure alters thermal pain sensing circuits during development.”
The study also concluded that CBD exposure caused female offspring to demonstrate decreased problem-solving behaviors when tested using a puzzle box test. The authors state that they believe this decrease is the result of CBD’s ability to reduce the excitability of certain neurons in the fetus’ prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain associated with problem-solving.
Interestingly, the authors’ hypothesis that fetal CBD exposure would result in increased “anxiety-like behavior or compulsivity” due to the cannabinoid’s impact on the prefrontal cortex, which can be seen in action in the example above, was not proven.
“The developing prefrontal cortex contains a multitude of receptors critical for normal development, including 5HT1A serotonin receptors and Kv7 receptors that are bound and activated by CBD,” the authors explain. In this case, however, the exposed mice did not show any significant deviation from a control group when compared under several conditions.
Another study, published in 2021, came to the surprising conclusion that its results “suggest that once-daily CBD intake during pregnancy is unlikely to result in CBD accumulation in the mother or fetus.”
This conclusion is based on the authors’ observation that CBD had a limited propensity for staying in the mother’s blood and a high rate of elimination from the body, as well as differences between the pharmacokinetics of the mouse fetus versus the adult.
“It is clear that the disappearance of CBD from the mother’s body is rapid. Therefore, it is unlikely that CBD that has transferred to the fetus will continue to remain,” they authors write.
However, they still state that “if pregnant women repeatedly ingest CBD over a long period, it cannot be ruled out that even if the concentration of CBD in amniotic fluid is low, the low concentration of CBD may affect the fetus,” and note that the current evidence for safety is insufficient.
While scientists might not be sure of the exact effects of CBD exposure on a developing fetus, there is conclusive evidence to explain exactly how CBD consumed by the mother reaches the fetus.
As the 2021 study explains, CBD diffuses from the mother to the fetus via the umbilical vein. Through a process called fetal circulation, “the drug transferred from the mother to the fetus is distributed to each organ of the fetus.”
The 2023 study clarifies further, noting that CBD’s lipophilic properties cause it to accumulate in the fetus’ brain, liver, and gastrointestinal tract and adding that “CBD binds and activates receptors important for fetal brain development including the 5HT1A serotonin receptor, heat-activated transient potential vanilloid receptor one (TRPV1) calcium channels], and voltage-gated Kv7 receptor potassium channel, among others.”
If you do choose to consume CBD to help deal with pain, nausea, stress, or other issues while pregnant, it’s important to be sure that you know exactly what is in the CBD products that you’re consuming.
While CBD is heavily and consistently marketed as a sort of cure-all, the lack of regulation on today’s CBD market has led to inaccuracies in labeling that mask, for example, dose per milliliter in a CBD oil dropper. One study that reviewed a sample of 80 hemp-derived CBD products available to consumers through online or brick-and-mortar retail in the United States found that just under half of those products contained at least 10% more or 10% less CBD than the product packaging indicated.
Another study found that some products marketed as CBD-only actually contain THC. This could not only prove harmful to a fetus, but could also lead to unexpected side effects, drug interactions, and even legal trouble for anyone who wants to utilize the wellness benefits of CBD but needs to stay THC-free for drug tests.
Your best bet for finding high-quality, heavily-vetted CBD products is to use a marketplace like Jointly Matches, which not only connects you with products specifically suited to your wellness goals but also allows you to see reviews from other wellness-oriented users.
Jointly is the cannabis discovery app that makes it easy to find and shop the best cannabis and CBD products for your goals. Your matches are calculated from the real product ratings and experiences from hundreds of thousands of people using the Jointly app.
With Jointly, you can shop your top-rated products, and save lists of your favorites to share and bring to your local dispensary to help guide your shopping experience.
The Jointly app also helps you improve your cannabis experiences by uncovering what’s working and what’s not with reflections and personalized insights. In fact, the quality of your diet, how much you slept, who you’re with, and the time of day are just some of the factors that can impact your cannabis experience.
So if you're ready to find your best products and enjoy your perfect cannabis experience, download the Jointly app today on the App Store orGoogle Play, or shop your matches on the Jointly website. Discovery awaits.