Is it safe to use CBD products when you are pregnant or breastfeeding? Learn about natural alternatives that have been scientifically proven safe for fetal development and breastfeeding infants.

With more people moving toward naturopathic remedies and clean living, many are turning to the growing cannabis industry for everyday health. Now that both recreational and medical marijuana use are becoming legal in more states, and medical marijuana is already legal in most states, we are going to be seeing more research being done in these areas.

It is important to note that cannabis may be legal in the state that you live, but it is still illegal on a federal level. CBD and THC products are also not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so they are not regulated for dosage, formulation, quality, potency, or method of delivery.

What Is the Difference Between CBD and THC?

Cannabis has two main compounds that people seek out: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana plants contain higher amounts of THC, while hemp plants contain higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC, making hemp more desirable for CBD extraction and production. While CBD and THC have similar chemical structures, and have similar effects on neurotransmitters, CBD has little to no psychoactive effects, whereas THC does.

Is it Safe to Use CBD When Pregnant?

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynocology (ACOG), the use of CBD oil is not recommended during pregnancy, including medical marijuana and its byproducts. At this point, there hasn’t been enough studies done to determine exactly why or how CBD is dangerous.

Will Taking CBD Affect the Baby?

The studies that have been done have found that THC crosses the placenta and produces fetal plasma levels of approximately 10% of the maternal levels after exposure (Moir). Studies have also found that children exposed to marijuana in utero have lower scores on tests of visual problem solving, visual-motor coordination, and visual analysis than children who were not exposed to marijuana (Fried, Chandler).

The long-term effects of CBD on babies is hard to research. There are many complicating factors that make the studies difficult to perform. The substances in the forms and concentrations we have today haven’t been available long enough to perform long-term studies that determine what the effects of CBD use in utero has on children as they grow into adolescents and adults.

Is CBD Harmful to Pregnant Women?

The use of CBD may not be harmful to pregnant women, but it is harmful to their unborn child. So it is best to not use any CBD products in any concentration while pregnant. This includes topical use, vaping, and ingesting any CBD product.

Will CBD Help With Pregnancy Symptoms?

Some women swear by using CBD products for pregnancy symptoms. They say they help with morning sickness, insomnia, anxiety, pain, and more. The problem is that there haven’t been enough studies to confirm that using CBD in any form while pregnant is actually safe for your unborn child. If you are experiencing symptoms that are making you miserable, talk to your doctor about other natural remedies, over-the-counter medicine, or prescriptions that you can safely use.

Common pregnancy symptoms that some women want to treat with CBD are:

  • Morning Sickness
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Stretch Marks
  • Insomnia
  • Pain

These symptoms aren’t treatable with CBD at this time, but there are plenty of other options for making your pregnancy more comfortable and a more pleasant experience.

Morning Sickness

Pregnant women should not use any products containing CBD for morning sickness, but there are many other natural ways to try to ease morning sickness and nausea. Although it seems counterintuitive, eat small snacks throughout the day to make sure you always have something in your stomach. The thought or taste of food may make your stomach turn, but if you don’t let yourself get hungry, it may keep the nausea at bay. Keep plain crackers, bananas, toast, and soup on hand, and keep a snack on your night stand in case you wake up hungry or nauseous in the night. Avoid anything greasy or spicy. Basically pretend you have the flu, and eat whatever you would then.

Some women swear by ginger to settle their stomachs. You can sip ginger tea, eat ginger gummies, or swallow ginger supplements you find at health food stores like GNC if you don’t like the taste.

If nothing seems to be working, ask your doctor for a prescription medication. While it may seem safer to turn to CBD as a more natural approach, it’s actually more dangerous, and the prescriptions that are currently available have been proven safe for you and your susceptible growing baby.

Can CBD Be Used for Depression and Anxiety While Pregnant?

No. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, mood swings, irrational fears, or crying fits, make an appointment and talk to your doctor. Most women experience at least some of these symptoms while they’re pregnant, but some women need medication to manage their symptoms. And that is okay! You’re not alone. There are safe medications for both depression and anxiety that can be taken by pregnant women that will not harm their baby and will not have any affect on their baby’s development both physically and neurologically.

Fortunately, there are some ways to combat both anxiety and depression while you’re pregnant that are completely safe for you and your baby—and backed by research.

Sleep Helps Anxiety

Some studies have shown that anxiety and getting enough sleep go hand-in-hand. If you are sleep deprived, anxiety is heightened, and conversely, if your anxiety is high, you’ll have a harder time sleeping. So how do you deal with that vicious cycle? Can you use CBD? No. You still can’t use CBD to make you sleep, but here are some great tips that are perfectly safe in all trimesters of pregnancy and also while breastfeeding.

  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Have a set bedtime routine.
  • Put your phone or device away an hour before bedtime.
  • Read a book before bed.
  • Don’t watch TV while trying to fall asleep. The blue light can mess with your circadian rhythm just like your phone or tablet.
  • Use a pregnancy pillow to get comfortable.
  • Exercise during the day.
  • Eat an early dinner and have a light snack to combat heartburn.
  • Take a soothing bath.

Exercise Helps Control Both Anxiety and Depression

You don’t need to be training for a marathon to benefit from exercise. You just need to stay active. Go for a walk around the block, download a pregnancy exercise app, or do prenatal yoga. Whatever it is that you choose, do something active daily and it will help improve your anxiety and depression.

Learn Everything You Can About Pregnancy and Delivery

Many times anxiety is triggered by the unknown. Are you terrified of labor? Do you worry about what breastfeeding will be like? Do you not really know what even happens during delivery other than it’s super painful and a baby comes out? What if you have to have a cesarean?

Do some research and sign up for birthing classes at a nearby hospital. If you’re planning on having your baby at a hospital or birthing center, ask for a tour so you can familiarize yourself with the facility. Sometimes knowing what the rooms and halls look like will ease anxiety.

If you’re worried about breastfeeding, and whether it’s the right choice for you, Le Leche League is a great resource.

Build a Support System

Even if you are the most introverted introvert, everyone needs a support system, and having friends that have been pregnant can do wonders for easing anxiety. Don’t be afraid to lean on your support group when you’re feeling lost or alone. If you are the first mom in your friend group, there are support groups you can join online, you can join a local mom’s club, or find a group on the Meetup app.

You don’t have to do it alone, and you don’t have to do it just with your partner. Surround yourself with people you can trust who know what you’re going through and what you’re about to go through. It’ll do wonders for alleviating your anxiety.

Behavioral and Talk Therapy

If you have health insurance, get a therapist. Therapists play a crucial role in teaching you how to handle anxiety and give you the tools you need to overcome panic attacks. If you don’t have health insurance there are low cost options for you. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is a good place to start. Another helpful resource is SAMHSA.

Schedule Time to Relax

This may seem a bit ridiculous. Scheduling time to relax seems so rigid that it would be the opposite of relaxing right? Wrong. If your time to relax is built into your daily schedule, it frees your mind for those 15 minutes, or 30 minutes to not stress about everything else you need to be doing, because you’ve already carved out the time to sit back and relax.

Find what helps you relax the most. Read a book, knit, watch your favorite tv show, meditate, do yoga, stretch, take a power nap, or just sit and do nothing. Whatever makes you feel good and lets you take a break and breathe that day will help.

Can CBD Be Used for Stretch Marks?

Some websites claim that CBD oil and lotions can be used to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. The truth is, there is no proven way to prevent stretch marks. If you’re really worried, look for moisturizing products with collagen and elastin and use them liberally and regularly. Even with the most diligent use, you will probably still end up with some stretch marks.

Many studies have been done on topical stretch mark prevention and treatment products. While some companies claim their products reduce the appearance of stretch marks, or prevent stretch marks, the studies are rarely double-blind clinical studies and therefore aren’t completely reliable. So far, no products, lotions, or oils have been proven to be any more effective in stretch mark prevention or treatment than placebo.

In many of the studies of topical stretch mark prevention creams or oils, they’ve found that the actual massaging of the skin may have more of an impact than the moisturizers themselves.

The best stretch mark prevention is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and make sure you stay hydrated with plenty of water. Try to stay away from sugary drinks and excessive amounts of caffeine.

So the takeaway for preventing stretch marks while pregnant, and treating them afterward is to:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Exfoliate regularly.
  • Massage your favorite product, whether it be lotion, cream, body butter, or oil into your skin. (Just make sure your favorite moisturizer does not contain any CBD or THC.)

Now hope for the best and remember that everyone has stretch marks and there’s nothing wrong with that. Eventually you’ll stop noticing them, and realize that nobody else is noticing them either.

Can CBD Be Used for Pain Associated With Pregnancy?

Pain medication should be used only when absolutely needed when you’re pregnant, especially in the first trimester. Prevention and natural pain relief are your best options. Some of the most common pain symptoms associated with pregnancy that women experience are:

  • Leg Cramps
  • Back Pain
  • Abdominal and Round Ligament Pain
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Leg Cramps

Many women experience leg cramps, especially in the calf muscle in the second and third trimester, and mostly at night. Doctors aren’t sure what causes these leg cramps, but there are a few things you can do to try to prevent them and relieve them.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Gently stretch your calf muscles before going to bed and avoid pointing your toes.
  • Staying active may help reduce the occurrences of leg cramps.

If a charley horse wakes you up in the night:

  • Try to gently straighten your leg and flex your foot. Don’t point your toes.
  • Gently massage your calf until the muscle releases and the pain subsides.

IMPORTANT! If the leg pain doesn’t go away, is severe, and/or accompanied by redness, swelling, warmth, or difficulty walking, contact a doctor right away. This could be a sign of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which requires immediate medical attention.

Back Pain

Most pregnant women experience back pain, especially lower back pain, during their pregnancy. As their abdomen and the weight of the fetus grows, so does the pressure on their spine. Some natural and safe ways to alleviate lower back pain are:

  • Wearing a belly band or maternity belt.
  • Applying a heating pad to your lower back.
  • Getting a prenatal chair massage.
  • Taking a warm bath.
  • Regular exercise to strengthen back and abdominal muscles.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with inserts made specifically for pregnancy.
  • Be extremely careful or avoid lifting heavy objects or children. If you do need to lift something (or someone) heavy, keep your back straight and use your leg muscles to lift rather than your back muscles.

Remember that if your back pain persists and you’ve tried everything, consult your doctor.

Abdominal and Round Ligament Pain

Anyone who has been pregnant before and experienced round ligament pain remembers it vividly. It can feel like a deep, sharp, stabbing pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis. Round ligaments are two connective tissues that help support the uterus. If stretched suddenly, usually from sudden movement, they can spasm. It is quite painful, but should pass quickly.

Most abdominal pain can be alleviated with belly supports, exercise, weight gain control, and a healthy diet.

If you are worried about the pain you are experiencing, ask your doctor, or seek medical attention if the pain doesn’t subside.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Leg Syndrome is the uncontrollable urge to move your legs at night. People with RLS tend to describe the feeling as “creepy crawling,” “burning,” “itching,” or “pulling,” with an overwhelming need to move their legs. Once they move their legs, the feeling stops. This happens repeatedly making it incredibly hard to fall asleep, and can also wake you up in the night.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes RLS, but women who have never had RLS symptoms previously can start having them during their pregnancy. RLS cannot be treated with CBD, especially in pregnant women. There are some prescriptions that can work for RLS, but they come with risks, so doctors only prescribe them as a last resort when sleep is seriously affected. The best way to naturally help RLS is similar to reducing anxiety or insomnia.

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages.
  • Exercise daily, but not within a few hours before bedtime.
  • Have a regular sleep routine.
  • Use a heating pad.

Another option that a doctor can prescribe is an FDA approved device that you can put at the foot of your bed that is basically a vibrating pad that has been shown to help women with prenatal RLS.

Are There Ways CBD Can Be Used During Pregnancy?

No. You may find anecdotal evidence and stories on websites and blogs by women who used CBD through their entire pregnancies and throughout breastfeeding, and haven’t noticed any adverse effects on their children. The problem is the research isn’t conclusive. The possible risks of adverse neurological development of your unborn child and infant aren’t worth the potential relief of symptoms you may experience with the use of CBD. Not only that, but the benefits of CBD treatment for anything other than specific forms of epilepsy has yet to be clinically proven. It’s always better to be diligent and cautious when pregnant or breastfeeding.

Can You Use CBD Infused Cosmetics While Pregnant?

CBD infused cosmetics are all the rage right now. With high-street cosmetic companies like MILK, Lord Jones, Saint Jane, Kiehl’s, and Peter Thomas Roth jumping on the CBD band-wagon, you’d think these products would be safe for everyone. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait to use these expensive serums and moisturizers until after you’re pregnant and finished breastfeeding. Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of similar products on the market that do the exact same thing without CBD and for much cheaper. Save your money, and your baby.

Is it Safe to Use CBD When Breastfeeding?

The limited data that we do have shows that THC is passed from marijuana in any form, including edibles, oils, and concentrates, from mother to baby through breast milk (Alhusen). These chemicals can potentially affect the neurodevelopment of the infant. THC also can affect lactation in that it reduces the amount of breast milk produced. Significant reductions in milk production have been reported after marijuana use, and it is thought that, that is due to the reduction of prolactin being produced in the mother.

There is a lack of data when it comes to evaluating the effects of marijuana on infants during lactation and breastfeeding, so it is best to abstain from both CBD and THC when breastfeeding.

Can I use CBD for Postpartum Depression or Anxiety?

Many mothers suffer from depression, anxiety, and even OCD after giving birth—and these disorders can be absolutely crippeling. That anxiety can be compounded by the fear of taking depression and anxiety medication while you’re breastfeeding, and having those chemicals pass through your breast milk. So you want to turn to a more natural alternative to prescription medication, and CBD seems like it might be a great option.

The problem with CBD and breastfeeding is that it isn’t known how much is passed through breast milk, so you may run into a few big problems.

  • You don’t know how much is being passed to your baby.
  • THC is stored in fat, and is passed through breast milk. If you have used marijuana and a baby’s urine test comes back positive for THC, your baby’s doctor my call the police. As of now there are no regulations on CBD products and many have small amounts of THC present.

A common prescription option for anxiety is Xanax. It may sound like a scary substance to take, but the thing about prescriptions is they were all once a naturally occurring substance that we have learned how to manufacture through science. Because we can now completely control the potency, the amount of medication passed through the breast milk can be calculated by the half-life of the medication down to the microgram per ounce in a certain time-frame. This makes it so the exact amount of medication passed to your baby is calculable, so that you and your doctor can make an informed decision. It also allows you to know if you need to “pump and dump” and for how long.

With CBD, there aren’t any studies that allow scientists or pharmacists to make those types of calculations in regards to breast milk. Anytime a woman chooses to use CBD while breastfeeding is an experiment that will yield no results.

Sore Nipples

When you start breastfeeding, it usually causes your nipples to be sore for a few days. The soreness can range from mild, to quite painful. If breastfeeding is painful, it usually means the baby doesn’t have a good latch, is tongue-tied, or there could potentially be an infection. Contact a lactation consultant if breastfeeding is painful, and they can help you determine the cause of the pain and correct the latch.

Some women are turning to CBD oil or balms to help with painful nipples. While there is evidence of CBD treating pain, it is unknown how and if it is absorbed and passed to your baby through breast milk. If your nipples are sore, here are some tips to make feedings more comfortable for you and your baby.

  • Make sure there is a proper latch. If the baby isn’t latched properly, and there isn’t enough breast tissue in their mouth, it will be painful. Slide your finger into the corner of their mouth to break the suction and re-latch. This will help teach you and your baby how to have a proper latch each time you breastfeed.
  • Try different nursing holds and positions. Sometimes changing the angle of the baby’s mouth is all you need to relieve sore spots, and give your nipples a bit of a break.
  • Use ultrapure lanolin after feedings. Ultrapure lanolin can be applied directly to your nipples to help them heal, and does not need to be removed before feedings.
  • Never remove the baby from your breast without breaking the suction first. If you need to readjust the latch, or when your baby is finished feeding, always make sure to break the suction first by inserting your finger into the corner of their mouth.

If you feel like you’ve tried everything and you’re still experiencing pain after the first week, consult your doctor to make sure you don’t have an infection or thrush. If you do have an infection or thrush, don’t worry, you do not have to stop breastfeeding. There are plenty of prescriptions you can take while breastfeeding that will clear up your symptoms in no time. If there’s no clinical reason for your pain, some pediatric or obstetric offices have licensed lactation consultants on staff that can help you. Otherwise, Le Leche League has resources all over the world.

Five Simple Breastfeeding Positions

Mastitis

Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue that is sometimes caused by infections. Symptoms include:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Warmth
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Chills

If you search around on the internet you’ll find stories of women who woke up with mastitis and rubbed some CBD oil on their breast and their mastitis was gone within a day. Sounds great, right? Well, the argument of whether or not CBD has antibacterial or antifungal properties is not relevant when it comes to applying it to lactating breasts. There are antibiotics that are safe to take while breastfeeding that your doctor can prescribe. It’s important to remember that prescription drugs were, at some point, natural substances found in nature, and reproduced in a lab to isolate the compound that has an effect on the ailment, and to control potency and dosage.

Here are some tips to help ease the pain of mastitis, and clear it up more quickly.

  • Don’t stop breastfeeding! It may seem counterintuitive, but breastfeeding with mastitis will not hurt your baby, and if you stop you’ll become engorged and be in even more pain.
  • Change the position that you hold your baby. For example, if you usually breastfeed in the cradle position, try holding your baby in the football position instead.
  • Massage the breast while breastfeeding. If there is a blocked milk duct that is causing the problem, massaging can help loosen or break up the blockage.
  • Breastfeed on the affected side first. The more hungry babies are, the stronger they suck. So starting them on the affected breast can help make sure the breast is completely drained, and can help dislodge or break up a blockage.
  • Breastfeed more often. Don’t let yourself get engorged.
  • Use warm compresses before feeding or pumping. This can help the breast fully drain.

Mastitis is painful and can come on fast. If you have a fever or chills, call your doctor. The sooner you get treatment, the faster it will heal.

Does CBD Affect Fertility?

The answer to this question is maybe. Studies have shown that smoking marijuana lowers sperm count and reduces the likelihood of getting pregnant. When a woman smokes, it can cause lower birth weight or stillbirth, and can impede fetal brain development.

But with CBD, some studies have shown that it may actually help with fertility. Because CBD activates the endocannabinoid system, it can possibly activate sperm cells, increasing their ability to fertilize an egg, and also help with female ovarian function.

Like everything else surrounding fetuses, babies, and CBD, it’s complicated. There aren’t enough studies to have any conclusive evidence, and for now, it’s safer to stick with proven science.

Does CBD Affect Hormones?

CBD reacts with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in the brain and throughout the body. So it affects many different hormones, not just ones associated with fertility. Some of the hormones affected are:

  • Insulin
  • Cortisol
  • Melatonin

Because CBC affects hormone production, and does have some drug interactions, make sure you consult your doctor before starting any CBD regimine.

Final Word of Precaution

CBD and hemp-based products are popping up in stores everywhere. In certain states where marijuana is legal for both recreational and medical use, CBD products are becoming available in local health-food stores and pharmacies like CVS. Remember that even though a CBD infused latte, or honey stick is being sold to the general public, it doesn’t mean it is safe for a pregnant or breastfeeding mother. Just as pregnant women are cautioned not to consume certain foods or use other products while pregnant, it’s best to steer clear of these products until after delivering your baby and once you’ve stopped breastfeeding.

What Is ACOG’s Stance on CBD Use in Breastfeeding and Pregnancy?

Disclaimer

Because marijuana is neither regulated nor evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are no approved indications, contraindications, safety precautions, or recommendations regarding its use during pregnancy and lactation. Likewise, there are no standardized formulations, dosages, or delivery systems. Smoking, the most common route of administration of THC, cannot be medically condoned during pregnancy and lactation. Therefore, obstetrician–gynecologists should be discouraged from prescribing or suggesting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes during preconception, pregnancy, and lactation. Rather, pregnant women or women contemplating pregnancy should be encouraged to discontinue use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in favor of an alternative therapy for which there are better pregnancy-specific safety data. High-quality studies regarding the effects of marijuana and other cannabis products on pregnancy and lactation are needed.

Potential Links

What You Need to Know About Marijuana Use and Pregnancy - CDC

Marijuana and Pregnancy - ACOG

Prenatal, Perinatal, and Neonatal Exposure to Cannabis - NCIB

Topical Stretch Mark Prevention and Treatment - NCIB

Sleep Deprivation Boosts Anticipatory Anxiety

Sources

Alhusen JL, Lucea MB, Bullock L, Sharps P. Intimate partner violence, substance use, and adverse neonatal outcomes among urban women. J Pediatr 2013;163:471–6.

Moir D, Rickert WS, Levasseur G, Larose Y, Maertens R, White P, et al. A comparison of mainstream and sidestream marijuana and tobacco cigarette smoke produced under two machine smoking conditions. Chem Res Toxicol 2008;21:494–502.

Fried PA, Watkinson B, Gray R. Differential effects on cognitive functioning in 13- to 16-year-olds prenatally exposed to cigarettes and marihuana. Neurotoxicol Teratol 2003;25:427–36.

Chandler LS, Richardson GA, Gallagher JD, Day NL. Prenatal exposure to alcohol and marijuana: effects on motor development of preschool children. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1996;20:455–61.