Bringing new life into the world is a huge step for all couples, but often, for the individual carrying the baby life begins to turn upside down. For pregnant people, it seems the list of things they shouldn’t take is far longer than the list of things that aren’t harmful. But what about more natural things; herbal remedies, cannabinoids, etc.? Unfortunately for pregnant individuals the research is minimal, especially when it comes to the effects of cannabinoids on the baby. Here’s what the FDA says, the outside research says, and what pregnant individuals have ultimately decided to do.
In an article published in October of 2019, aptly named “What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding” the FDA or the Food and Drug Administration have a very clear stance on the use of cannabinoids during pregnancy. “FDA strongly advises against the use of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and marijuana in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.” While this answer seems cut and dry, let's explore why the FDA has come to this conclusion (for our purposes we will focus mostly on CBD). The FDA starts by explaining that there isn’t a ton of comprehensive research on the effects of cannabinoids, especially CBD, being taken during pregnancy. One study done by S.L. Darterio and D.G. DeRooij for the International Journal of Andrology in 1986, showed that male mice exposed to cannabinoids during pregnancy had lower fertility levels than those who were not exposed. It is mentioned that the dose given to the pregnant mice is a “high dose” but is unspecified the exact milligram content of the dose.
It is explained that, “There are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD,” according to the FDA. The lack of research and long term data is cited as the biggest reason for the FDA’s decision on not approving cannabinoids as safe for pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. Organizations like the American Pregnancy Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree with the FDA, with such little research having been done, it is hard to make a definitive finding on the safety of a fetus when using cannabinoids. Research is currently being done on the effects of CBD at all levels including for pregnant and breastfeeding parents in order to bring more information to the forefront.
But what are pregnant people actually taking CBD for and why? Overwhelmingly, when reading stories about cannabinoid use during pregnancy it is associated with nausea, pain, and anxiety relief. When reading stories from pregnancy forums or social media websites like Reddit, the opinions are mixed from both pregnant people and those who are treating them about the use of cannabinoids. Many people commented that they used CBD, especially during the first and second trimester for nausea and later in the third and fourth trimester for pain and anxiety around delivery. According to each of these commenters, their babies were born full term and healthy, but like any public thread these experiences must be taken with a heavy grain of salt. Many other comments from parents, doulas, and medical professionals alike warned about the unknown effects of cannabinoids on a developing fetus and the unknown of possible THC contamination in products. Overall, opinions are mixed and the medical science just isn’t extensive enough for there to be one “right” decision.
In the end, the best decision for each pregnant person individually is to speak directly to your doctor and create a care plan for you and your baby. Each pregnancy is different, therefore there is not one concrete answer for each person and getting the opinion of a medical professional should be top priority. In the years to come, with more research being done hopefully making these decisions will be easier and more accessible to all parents.