The long-term effects of using cannabis while pregnant are still largely unknown. While in the short-term, cannabis can be useful in curbing nausea and cramps, little research has been done looking at how cannabinoids, or chemical compounds like the psychoactive THC or the non-psychotropic CBD impact the developing fetus.
While using cannabis with high levels of THC has so far not been shown to cause birth defects or any immediate postnatal issues, the impacts on the baby’s endocannabinoid system could show up later in life. The endocannabinoid system is a series of innate cannabinoid receptor cells throughout the body, regulating various functions including appetite, mood, sleep, metabolism, and immunity. One study from 2014 suggests that altering the endocannabinoid system during prenatal development could predispose the baby to potential disease states later in life. However, that study looked only at the potential effects of THC, and not those of CBD.
To avoid the unknown risks of THC, some women are instead using CBD.
As CBD is often used to treat pain and inflammation, it could be useful in treating contractions during labor. According to one study from the Journal of the Society for Reproduction and Fertility, CBD (as well as THC) can reduce uterine contractions. Since contractions are caused by the hormone oxytocin, the study found that the effects of synthetic CBD were similar to other drugs that acted as oxytocin antagonists in order to ease labor contractions.
Another study found that CBD could make the placenta more vulnerable to outside harms. CBD could make the placenta more permeable, according to the study, hence allowing foreign agents to enter it and head toward the fetus.
And for those trying to get pregnant, CBD might be useful. In one study with rodents, THC was shown to affect implantation, to alter ovulation, and to correlate with miscarriage, or the self-destruction of embryonic cells. However, CBD was not shown to have any of these effects, suggesting that strains higher in CBD might be better for those trying to conceive.
While the amount of research out there is slim, CBD has been proven to curb anxiety, pain, seizures, inflammation, spasms, and so on. It’s also a known neuroprotectant, and could protect from oxygen deficits to the brain. Moreover, in some cases, CBD could help mitigate the effects of THC. So if a mother does choose to use cannabis during her pregnancy, choosing a CBD-rich strain could balance out the psychoactive and other impacts of THC on her own system and the baby’s.