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Is CBD Safe to Use During Pregnancy?

How’s no one really knows for an answer?

The CDC has made clear that weed use during pregnancy should be avoided. The same goes for the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists at its latest annual meeting. But that’s all about THC, which after eating or inhaling, can be passed on to the fetus and can cause developmental issues.

On the other hand, CBD, all the rage for its anxiety-, nausea- and inflammation-reducing properties (minus the THC), seems like it should be another matter completely. If CBD doesn’t get you high because it lacks the troubling compound that makes it a no-go for pregnant women, why hasn’t it been okayed during pregnancy or nursing as the lightest form of green in town?

Anecdotally, pregnant women say CBD has helped them deal with morning sickness, joint pain, anxiety, stress, food aversions and sleeplessness. For example, Maggie Frank told Parents magazine that after months of extreme vomiting during pregnancy (called hyperemesis gravidarum) to the tune of 20 to 30 upchucks a day that led to malnourishment and dehydration, her most obvious medical option was a prescription drug with too many side effects. She researched CBD, and asked her doctor for approval to take it. Her OB/GYN “didn’t have an opinion either way, other than it didn’t seem like it would be worse than the pharmaceutical’s risks,” explained Frank, who decided to go for it and try 3 milligrams of CBD oil peppermint spray. 

The result? 

It was like someone flipped off the switch that was making me feel sick at all times,” Frank said. “I was once again able to move, sleep and eat without feeling the need to vomit. Even my over-sensitivity to smells dissipated.”

Another woman, Jennifer Farris, tells Parents that CBD gummies helped her reduce anxiety and sleeplessness during pregnancy as well as joint pain. Users who swear by the products (a la Farris) typically cite brands who use third-party labs to test and show that the products don’t contain any traces of THC.

But mostly, the hesitation about CBD products from the medical community isn’t about what we know, but what we don’t.

Harvard Health, the Harvard Medical School blog, lays out that there’s strong evidence for CBD’s treatment of epileptic seizures in children, and studies show it can aid in sleep and in reducing chronic pain and inflammation. But because it’s not regulated, it’s impossible to know what you’re getting, whether there’s THC in the product or how much of it might be present. Moreover, independent testing often finds that the claims on the products don’t match what’s in the goods. Lack of FDA approval for CBD (aside from one usage — to treat epilepsy) also affects the funding for the clinical trials needed to figure out this sort of thing, and to date, there just aren’t enough studies.

A medical researcher in the field of medical marijuana, Stuart Titus, told Romper that the lack of such studies on CBD oil use during pregnancy is why most OB/GYNs still recommend against it and take the “better-safe-than-sorry” approach. “We know cannabidiol works on the same class of receptors as THC, but in different ways,” James Lozada, an obstetric anesthesiologist at Northwestern University, explained to Romper. “These receptors help our brains develop normally. Otherwise, we don’t have a lot of information about the effects CBD has on pregnant women and their babies. Because of the uncertainty, I recommend not using these products during pregnancy — because we just don’t have enough information to say whether it could harm your growing baby.”

That’s a recurring theme when it comes to the gauntlet-running of what’s okay to consume and not consume during pregnancy in general, which for most women is a difficult and nuanced issue requiring complex negotiations between health, cravings and aversions, to say nothing of resources and all the anecdotal tales of doing the bad thing to good results, or the good thing to terrible results, and everything in between. That’s whether we’re talking sushi, deli meat, booze, weed or pure CBD. Drinking during pregnancy is bad, but my friend drank during her pregnancy and her baby was accepted to Mensa! And so forth. All of which leaves women between the same rock and queasy, sleepless, stressed-out hard place.  

That doesn’t mean pregnant or lactating women can’t take CBD and have children that are perfectly healthy. It just means they need to be aware of the risk and ideally discuss it with a doctor so there’s no confusion about what’s at stake. So for nine months (and however long they nurse), women are still threading a needle, crossing their fingers and hoping they haven’t made a false move. 

Since that’s pretty much a lot like all of parenting, perhaps that’s as accurate a preview of what’s to come as any.