It can soothe the body and bring peace to the mind under normal circumstances, but can CBD be beneficial during pregnancy? Discover the challenges of pregnancy, how the cannabinoid might help, and if it’s safe to consume CBD while pregnant.

Pregnancy marks one of the most exciting times in some women's lives. Over a period of nine months, two souls inhabit one body. Couples rush around to purchase toys, decorate rooms, and await the arrival of a new member of the family.

But these are the positive sides of pregnancy. This physiological state also comes with a harsh set of challenges. Mothers have to endure a long list of common pregnancy symptoms and difficulties.


What Problems Do Women Face During Pregnancy?

If you’ve ever been pregnant or helped your partner through those turbulent nine months, you know exactly how tough things can get. While some mothers get away with minimal difficulties, others become inundated with anxiety, nausea, and sleep issues.

  • Anxiety

Pregnancy can take mothers on a roller coaster ride of emotions. One second, they may experience moments of joy, happiness, and optimism about the future. Next, they might become filled with distress. While some degree of worry is perfectly normal during pregnancy, some women develop anxiety that interferes with their daily life. The symptoms include:

Excessive worrying about the health of the baby Feeling irritable and agitated
Muscular tension Loss of concentration



Anxiety can arise from different sources during pregnancy, both internal and external. These include:

Previous trauma Excess stress from work or other sources
Family history of anxiety Hormonal changes

  • Nausea & Morning Sickness

Pregnant mothers almost always experience nausea during pregnancy. It mainly manifests as morning sickness. Despite the name, this type of sickness can occur at any time throughout the day. Morning sickness symptoms tend to set in around the 6th week of pregnancy and usually clear up between weeks 16–20.

Nausea and morning sickness can have a huge impact on quality of life, making even basic tasks difficult for pregnant mothers. However, feeling queasy during the first trimester might actually serve as a positive sign. Women that experience nausea during this time are at a statistically lower risk[1] of miscarriage.

But why do women start to feel sick during pregnancy at all? More than a mere cruel trick of the body, nausea signifies an important change in hormones that facilitate the creation of new life. Women start to produce human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) just after the fertilised egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. Oestrogen levels also begin to increase. Elevated levels of both of these hormones are tied to sensations of nausea and morning sickness.

Is It Safe To Consume CBD While Pregnant?

  • Sleep

Sleep forms one of the pillars of health. Adequate sleep makes us feel rested, restored, and ready for action. However, things can take a turn when we miss even a few hours of necessary sleep. In the short term, we experience a drop in mood and cognitive function. In the long run, we increase our risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.

On top of feelings of anxiety and nausea, sleep issues appear as yet another difficulty during pregnancy. The first and third trimesters are usually the worst in this regard. Women often find themselves waking up in the night, which in turn forces them to nap during the day to fight off fatigue. Some of the main reasons for night-waking during pregnancy include:

Cramps Heartburn
Back pain Needing to urinate
Fetal movement



Luckily, there are a few natural approaches women can take to better the odds of improved sleep during pregnancy. These include:

Regular exercise Avoiding caffeine
Relaxation techniques Taking only short naps during the day



What Are the Solutions?

In the modern era, we’re lucky enough to have access to medicines and modalities for nearly every health complaint. Below are the current interventions for the conditions discussed above:

Anxiety

Cognitive behavioural therapy, massage, yoga, acupuncture, anti-anxiety medication

Sleep issues

Behavioural therapies, stimulus control, sleep medications

Nausea

Small but frequent meals, ginger supplements, acupressure, anti-sickness medicine

Some mothers-to-be experience great relief with these treatments, while others look elsewhere for solutions.

Many women are now setting their sights on CBD as a means of reducing stomach discomfort, relaxing the mind, and aiding sleep. But how does CBD fare against these difficulties?

First, we’ll take a look at how CBD might help under normal circumstances. Then, we’ll see how pregnancy makes using CBD a bit more complicated.

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How CBD Might Help Symptoms Under Normal Circumstances

Many ongoing studies are exploring the effects of CBD against common health complaints.

  • CBD and Anxiety

Ongoing human trials are probing CBD's effect on anxiety, and we can look to older research for clues. For example, a 2011 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology tested CBD on patients with anxiety during a simulated public speaking event, examining how the cannabinoid impacted outcome measures[2] such as nervousness, cognitive impairment, and discomfort during speech.

A 2010 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology decided to take a look at what happens in the brain after a person takes CBD[3]. They recruited patients with generalised anxiety disorder and monitored their brains using functional neuroimaging. The scientists found blood flow changes to the limbic and paralimbic areas—regions involved in emotion and behaviour.

A review published in 2015 in the journal Neurotherapeutics also took a look at the available data concerning CBD and anxiety[4]. The authors analysed both preclinical studies and human trials, and stated the importance of future research to confirm these findings and draw up guidelines for dosing.

  • CBD and Sleep

What can CBD do for sleep under normal conditions? Researchers are hoping to find out soon.

A large case series published in 2019 looked into the effects of CBD on both anxiety and sleep. Seventy-two adult patients were given 25mg of CBD, and their symptoms were documented monthly to determine if the cannabinoid helped to improve sleep[5].

  • CBD and Morning Sickness

We can’t say outright whether or not CBD helps to relieve morning sickness. Researchers simply haven’t performed these kinds of trials. However, scientists are currently conducting research to explore CBD's potential to manage nausea. Such studies are applying the cannabinoid to mouse models to see if it could help to offset nausea and vomiting[6] associated with current cancer treatments.

Health Authorities Say No to CBD and Pregnancy—But Why?

Ongoing research looks quite promising for the main difficulties of pregnancy—but only when we remove pregnancy from the picture. Studies have evaluated the effects of CBD against anxiety, sleep issues, and nausea, but without the many variables that pregnancy brings.

Not only does pregnancy bring big biochemical changes to the table, but it also introduces unborn life into the equation. So far, the lack of research has led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States to strongly advise against the use of CBD[7] during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

The FDA based their statement on a lack of research studying the effects of CBD on developing foetuses and pregnant mothers. They also cite animal research that points to high doses of CBD causing problems in the reproductive systems of developing male foetuses.

Additionally, not all CBD products are lab-tested and regulated. While reputable companies offer high-quality and trustworthy products, some CBD oils and extracts contain excess amounts of THC, pesticides, or heavy metals. Clearly, these products aren’t safe for pregnant mothers.

CBD also comes with some side effects of its own. Although the World Health Organization states that the cannabinoid features a good safety profile[8], some people find they don’t tolerate CBD very well. The major side effects include:

Dry mouth Vomiting
Decreased appetite Weight loss
Drowsiness Diarrhoea



Research barriers and ethical considerations

Of course, many scientists are chomping at the bit to discover how CBD impacts pregnant women. Not only will this research identify any risk factors, but it could open the doorway to effective treatments. But several barriers stand in the way of bright-eyed scientists breaking ground in this area.

First of all, there are major ethical considerations. Most clinical trials expose participants to an element of risk. During pregnancy, the risks to the mother and the foetus are deeply interconnected. Many substances can cross the placenta and potentially negatively impact the life inside the mother’s womb.

Then, there are the physiological complexities. High-quality clinical trials must control as many variables as possible to yield the most accurate and reliable results. Once researchers have worked through the labyrinth of ethics, they must recruit a large sample size of consenting pregnant women, ideally with similar health statuses and at a similar stage in pregnancy.

The way the body processes drugs (binding, absorption, metabolism, excretion etc.) changes during pregnancy. The difficulties and symptoms of pregnancy also vary across trimesters. These factors make it important for researchers to recruit women who are undergoing the same symptoms at the same stage in pregnancy, ideally who are within a similar age range—a tricky task.

A certain stigma also exists around recruiting women for clinical trials, but some scientists want to change that. Some researchers believe that the vernacular fuels this, and they want to shift the view of pregnant women as a “vulnerable population” to a “scientifically complex” one.

For now, scientists are mostly limited to obtaining data from population studies. This kind of research relies on the self-reported use of cannabis and CBD from pregnant mothers. While they offer a look into possible effects and outcomes, these studies lack the rigorous controls of clinical research and any results are taken with a large grain of salt.

Can You Use CBD While Pregnant?

Can you smoke CBD while pregnant? What about eating CBD gummies? Is CBD cream safe during pregnancy? Pregnant mothers often have a lot of questions when it comes to CBD. Unfortunately, it’s far too early to give any clear-cut answers. Clearly, smoking anything while pregnant exposes the mother and baby to health risks. But what about creams and edibles? While ongoing research points to their usefulness, we need to wait for more studies to confirm their safety.

At the end of the day, any expectant mothers interested in using CBD should talk to their doctor, as they will offer the most sound advice while supporting the health of both mother and child.

External Resources:
  1. Nausea during pregnancy: A good thing? - Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org
  2. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients - PubMed https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  3. SAGE Journals: Your gateway to world-class journal research https://journals.sagepub.com
  4. Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders https://www.thereliefdisc.com
  5. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  6. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids - PubMed https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  7. What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding | FDA https://www.fda.gov
  8. CANNABIDIOL (CBD) https://www.who.int
Disclaimer:
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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