Cannabis has become so ubiquitous that many people consume weed with the same frequency and casualness as most people drink booze. There are plenty of good reasons to indulge in cannabis every now and then; the drug is safe when used responsibly, and it can even be essential to managing health conditions like chronic pain, chronic nausea, epilepsy and more.
Yet, when one gets pregnant, the rules for what is safe to consume tend to shift. Expectant people aren’t supposed to eat sushi or deli meat, let alone enjoy alcohol or take certain medications. Still, pregnancy comes with a slew of physical and mental ailments, like pain, nausea, anxiety and insomnia, and cannabinoids like THC and CBD could potentially help some make it to nine months with greater comfort and confidence.
Many people who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding might wonder: Are the compounds in cannabis safe for baby and me?
When It Comes to THC, Best Stay Away
Research shows that THC is among the safest of psychoactive drugs used recreationally and medically. Though overdosing on THC can yield uncomfortable effects, like panic, hallucinations and vomiting, THC overdoses cause neither debilitating injury nor death. Some medical professionals hypothesize that high enough doses might be dangerous because THC can cause rapid heart rate and low blood pressure, but to the average adult, there is little harm in THC.
Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for non-adults. Studies on THC indicate that it might be a developmental neurotoxin, which means that when developing brains are exposed to THC, the compound interferes with proper growth and maturation. This is largely why it isn’t recommended for teenagers to experiment with cannabis products, but it is an especially good reason for pregnant and lactating people to stay away.
Research shows that THC is not easily filtered out by the liver or the placenta, which means a fetus is exposed to THC when it is consumed by the mother. When this happens, THC molecules make their way into developing fetal brain tissues. One exposure might not cause that much trauma to the baby’s brain, but over time, THC will likely cause neurological problems that manifest as developmental delays after the baby is born. THC use during pregnancy is also associated with low birth weight and small size.
Though the body is much better at filtering out potential toxins while lactating, it remains disadvantageous to use THC while breastfeeding. THC tends to dissolve into fat cells, and breastmilk is largely composed of fats, which give babies calories to boost growth and development. Thus, when a lactating person consumes THC, they are likely passing at least some compounds into their breastmilk and potentially causing neurological delays in their baby.
CBD Isn’t as Easy to Understand
When it comes to CBD, the research isn’t nearly as clear. CBD is not psychoactive, but it does seem to have some kind of physiological and psychological effect on users; scientists just aren’t sure what that effect is, exactly, or how it works.
Thus, most doctors will tell pregnant and lactating people that using CBD, especially high doses of CBD, probably isn’t worth the potential risk. Because they can’t say that CBD is definitely safe for a developing fetus or growing baby, doctors will most often err on the side of extreme caution and tell parents not to use any CBD products whatsoever.
However, even compared to THC, CBD has few negative side effects. The worst possible experience of CBD involves dry mouth, fatigue and slight nausea. What’s more, the bloodstream absorbs almost no CBD through the skin, so topical CBD products are unlikely to affect a fetus in any way. In contrast, using CBD might give a pregnant person immense relief in terms of the reduction of pain and stress.
Pregnant people who take every precaution to avoid even the slightest risk to their or their unborn child’s health might not think the benefits of CBD worthwhile. In contrast, those who fully believe in the healing power of CBD and who aren’t worried about eating small amounts of shellfish or soft cheeses will likely appreciate the opportunity to use CBD while pregnant or lactating. Especially if one relies on CBD from Arkansas dispensaries to manage a health condition, cutting out CBD can result in an exceedingly negative pregnancy experience.
Cannabis is a complex and crucial drug, but it is safe to say that most cannabis products are not appropriate during pregnancy or breastfeeding. As with everything, however, expecting and lactating people should talk to their doctors about their unique circumstances.