Cannabis and Pregnancy
Many mothers consider turning to hemp or cannabis products during pregnancy, in order to control nausea, stress and other unpleasant symptoms. But as medical professionals do not recommend the use of cannabis during pregnancy, is hemp oil safe?
The perceived “blanket ban” on plants of the Cannabis genus (which hemp belongs to, as it is a non-psychoactive cousin of cannabis) may just relate to THC. A 2014 study suggested that THC exposure during pregnancy negatively affects brain development in both humans and mice1. As fetal development involves many specifically-timed signals and processes, THC may impair it in some ways. Cannabis use has also been linked with low birth weight and premature deliveries. However, a review of research found that there was no significant risk of these when results were adjusted for factors such as tobacco smoking2.
Contradictions to the negative effects of cannabis and pregnancy on newborns
Contradicting the 2014 study is a six-year, controlled study on Jamaican mothers and their children3. This found that the mothers using cannabis had babies who were not only free of impairment, but deemed “superior”. They were more socially responsive, less irritable, and more alert and autonomically stable. However, these better scores were caused by higher educational attainment and financial independence among users.Nineteen of the 33 users reported that it relieved nausea and improved appetite; 15 said that it reduced fatigue. Participants also stated that they found relief from depression and feelings of desperation, associated with raising children in poverty.
Follow-up research4 conducted in California also found no developmental problems in the babies of mothers who used cannabis. In addition, three women previously thought to be sterile conceived; mothers were 8 times more likely to breastfeed for at least a year; and all gave birth naturally.
The endocannabinoid system, a system of chemicals produced by our own bodies similar to cannabinoids and the receptors that respond to both, is present from the early embryonic stage. Even when an embryo is only two cells, it still has cannabinoid receptors5. In a study on mouse embryos, THC, but not CBD, stopped the development of embryos that were less than 8 cells. However, one of our own cannabinoids, anandamide, also stopped early embryos from developing. CBD exerts some of its effects by increasing levels of anandamide, so it may have negative effects on embryonic development.
It must be remembered that this was a 1995 study on mice, so it may not translate to humans. On the other hand, many of the Jamaican women in the study above were “root’s daughters” who smoked cannabis every day, including the earliest weeks of pregnancy.
CBD might be better than regular cannabis
In conclusion, cannabinoids have been consumed by many pregnant women over the years to relieve uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea. However, using only non-psychoactive hemp is advisable to avoid addiction. It is also important to only use hemp extracts (and other herbs and supplements) during pregnancy and prior to conception if necessary and only to use them under the advice of a health professional.