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Is There Evidence To Suggest That CBD Is Safe To Use Whilst Pregnant Or Breastfeeding?

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Considering that half of the population is female, why is there not more research being done on using CBD oil in pregnancy? Why don’t we have a definitive answer about whether CBD oil is safe to take whilst breastfeeding? We take a look at these important questions to see if we can shed some light on this glaring gap in CBD research.  

CBD is growing in popularity and folk all across the UK and beyond use this powerful natural botanical for a whole myriad of reasons. From anxiety to pain relief and sleep, our loyal customers tell us that CBD enriches their lives and gives them back that feeling of equilibrium they thought they had lost. 

If more and more people are using CBD as a natural pain relief, it follows that women experiencing aches and pains in pregnancy might look to use a natural substance such as CBD to ease these symptoms. When you are pregnant and doing everything within your power to keep your growing baby safe and healthy, using natural (non-pharmaceutical) remedies to ease your pains and restore balance seems like a sensible idea right?

There is no clear scientific evidence to confirm the safety of CBD in pregnancy (which is why using CBD when pregnant is one of the only two overt prohibitions on its use). Unfortunately because of this, we advise pregnant mothers NOT to use CBD until there is enough evidence to support it being safe for the unborn child. 

Using certain natural botanicals can be extremely beneficial for mothers-to-be, but pregnant and lactating mothers could be putting their babies at risk if they take CBD due to a lack of evidence proving otherwise. 

But why is there such a lack of research? Why isn’t more being done to examine the effects of CBD oil on pregnant and nursing mothers? 

Research Studies on CBD and Pregnant Women 

For decades women have been excluded from many clinical trials due to the (unfounded) belief that fluctuations in female hormones would make women too difficult to study. 

The endocrine system (which produces hormones) was discovered in the early 20th century. To the medical world this highlighted another difference between men and women, and yet medicine persisted with the belief that all other organs and functions would operate the same in each gender and so there was no need to study women. Given that the endocannabinoid system (upon which CBD reacts) wasn’t discovered until 1992, you can understand why there is such a lack of research on CBD and women in pregnancy. 

The way men and women’s bodies work can be very different and this means that the way in which their bodies process substances can vary. Several factors are at play here, including different body fat compositions of men and women, varying body weights, as well as different rates of GI and kidney function. It’s crucial that independent studies are carried out on women as well as men because their genetic makeup can vary so wildly, especially when pregnant.

CBD Science

The UK Food Standards Authority (FSA) advises against the use of CBD by pregnant or breastfeeding women due to current lack of testing for any harmful effects in these populations.

Professor David Heal
Scientific Advisor for EthicaCBD
Find out more

CBD and the Unborn Child

Whilst there are several studies looking at the impact of THC (another compound found in cannabis) on female mice and their offspring, this study showed that because it hasn’t been properly tested on adult pregnant mothers, producers of said substances can’t lay claim to their safety.

It is unethical to test products on unborn babies and so this too has an impact on studies looking at the effects of CBD, novel foods and other natural supplements when considering the effects on pregnant women. 

pregnant woman on sunset beach in front of waves

Aside from this, it is obviously crucial to also assess how the compound affects the unborn child, and how it might affect the brain of that child as it grows and develops.  One preliminary study in mice suggested CBD has a lasting impact on offspring even into adulthood. It then concluded that “significant efforts are needed to fully characterize the impacts of this compound during development” so again highlighted that there is not enough research into this field to draw a sound conclusion and so mothers should avoid using CBD during their pregnancies. 

This study reinforced another preliminary study carried out in 2019. This study, also in mice, shows how a one-time exposure during early pregnancy to cannabinoids – natural and synthetic – can cause growth issues in a developing embryo.

Research Gender Gap

There is definitely a huge gap where women of a childbearing age are routinely excluded from important research studies. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, which began in 1958 with the aim of exploring the effects of ‘normal human ageing’, didn’t enrol any women for the first 20 years it ran. The Physicians’ Health Study which concluded that taking a daily aspirin may reduce the risk of heart disease conducted the trial using 22,071 men and zero women. Dr Kate Young, a public health researcher at Monash University in Australia said “For much of documented history, women have been excluded from medical and science knowledge production, so essentially we’ve ended up with a healthcare system, among other things in society, that has been made by men for men,” Insanity! 

Solely doing research on males doesn’t take into account breeding cycles, pregnancies or hormonal changes in female subjects and so, in turn, negates the research conducted on half of the global population. The bottom line is that much more needs to be done to address the gender gap in clinical trials so that women can have the information they need to make properly informed decisions about their own health and wellbeing. 

CBD & Breastfeeding

Is CBD Safe When Breastfeeding?

While the composition of breast milk is tightly regulated by your body, research has shown that what you eat does have some effect on the contents of breast milk. For instance, eating too much tuna or marlin (fish which are high in mercury) can pass through to baby and mercury can potentially affect the baby’s development. 

Whilst the use of herbs and spices like cumin or basil is considered safe during breastfeeding, when it comes to certain herbal supplements and teas there are some which have concerns as there’s a lack of research because like CBD, many herbal supplements haven’t been evaluated for their safety during breastfeeding. This is to do with the potential for these supplements to be contaminated with potentially dangerous heavy metals because they are not properly regulated. 

The good news is that strict quadruple-testing is undertaken here at EthicaCBD to scientifically guarantee absolute quality in the final product.

sleeping baby in mothers arms

Dr. Hale is considered one of the foremost experts in the field of perinatal pharmacology and the use of medications by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. He is currently doing a research study on the transfer of marijuana into human milk and so far states:

“There is virtually no research done on the use of Cannabis in breastfeeding mothers. I am getting ready to publish some new data but that is some months away. As for cannabidiol (CBD), while it appears to be somewhat safer than delta-9-THC, which produces psychological effects, cannabidiol seems to be somewhat safer. I would strongly urge you to talk with your physician…” 

Dr. Hale

La Leche League is the UK body of trained breastfeeding counsellors and knowledge on all things to do with mothers and nursing for Great Britain. A La Leche League spokesperson said,

“While there seems to be some evidence that CBD could be useful in treating anxiety, the research is very preliminary and there’s a lot that isn’t known about safety, effectiveness, appropriate dosage, etc. There is NO information on its use during breastfeeding, whether it transfers into breast milk and at what concentration, and what potential effects it could have on a breastfeeding baby” 

La Leche League spokesperson

Again, the lack of research suggests that we are unable to draw properly founded conclusions on the safety of CBD on breastfeeding mothers and babies so it is best to avoid it whilst nursing. 

Do Cannabinoids Exist in Breast Milk?

An article published in 2017 stated that “human breast milk naturally contains the same cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant, which are vital for proper human development”. 

This claim quickly went viral on Facebook and the article had over 52,000 shares. Scientists who later reviewed the claim explained that human breast milk does indeed contain cannabinoids, but these are endocannabinoids that are important for human development and are different from the type of cannabinoids found in cannabis (also known as marijuana). Therefore, the article’s claim is inaccurate.

The Bottom Line

The fact that CBD is indicated for a lot of things that might happen during pregnancy  (like anxiety, nausea or pain) leads us to think that CBD would be an option for women looking for a  natural solution to their symptoms. For this reason, and on behalf of all the women out there who deserve answers, we urge more research to be done on CBD in pregnancy. Alas until then, we must urge pregnant and nursing mothers to avoid using CBD. 

“It is concerning how little we know about the use of marijuana, its CBs [cannabinoids], and products like CBD oil during pregnancy,” 

Dr. Scott E. Parnell, PHD:

What do you think? Did you use CBD in pregnancy? Do you take CBD whilst breastfeeding? Let us know your thoughts and let’s join the CBD revolution over on Facebook and Instagram. Let’s join together to ignite the changes that women deserve

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