A Guide to Cannabis, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding


Like many other medicines, there can be risks to baby if cannabis is taken while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Important Points

  • Until more research is carried out, is it best not to use any cannabis products while pregnant or breastfeeding
  • THC and CBD are excreted into breastmilk and are metabolised by the baby
  • Use of medical cannabis may lower milk supply
  • This applies to topical, vaped, drops, ingested and smoked cannabis
  • It appears prolonged or heavy use of cannabis causes more harm

Rates of cannabis use are rising as more evidence and studies show it can be beneficial in many health concerns. Because of these benefits, those who are pregnant or lactating may think there are benefits from the use of cannabis. However, an informed decision needs complex risk-and-benefit assessments, and sometimes primary health providers cannot provide the information required.

Because cannabis is viewed as natural, many people assume it’s safe in a variety of situations. In pregnancy, there are many conventional medicines which are known to be harmful to the developing baby, so it can be tempting to try a natural cure to gain some relief.

It is important to note that research is still developing in these areas. At present, official health websites (FDA, CDC) advise against all CBD and THC use while pregnant and breastfeeding and this will be the advice offered.

However, there may be some rare instances where potential harm to baby may be outweighed by the  benefits. If, for instance, CBD reduces stress, PTSD, or alleviates depression during the pregnancy, and other conventional treatments have not been successful, then it may be worth weighing up the evidence on a case-by-case basis.

Research into this field is problematic because you can’t ethically prescribe something to someone knowing it could cause harm. As a result, studies rely on anecdotes, self-reports, animal studies, and inconsistent and unmeasurable dosages. This means that research is challenging to carry out and there is insufficient data to truly evaluate outcomes.

This said, where is the research into CBD, THC, and smoking marijuana when pregnant or breastfeeding? CBD is often touted as a universally safe compound; is this accurate?

SIDS Risk From Smoking Cannabis

It is important to note that smoking around a baby, whether cigarettes or cannabis, by anyone, can increase the chance of SIDS. If you, your partner, or anyone else in the home smokes cannabis, it is best to stop smoking altogether while pregnant and breastfeeding. Failing that, no smoking indoors, wash yourself thoroughly after smoking, and change clothes before holding the baby.

If you must use cannabis, avoid smoking it.

CBD, THC, and Breastfeeding

THC and CBD are excreted into breastmilk in small quantities, in anything ranging from one hour to six days post-exposure. It is metabolised by the baby. Reports suggested that mother use of THC can slow baby motor development, and there is some research that indicates it may result in cognitive and social defects. It’s important to note we don’t know how much or the mechanisms why. It seems that the higher the use of cannabis, the larger the effect.

It also appears to lower milk production via a decrease in prolactin.

Formula is an alternative option for those wanting to continue CBD or THC while their child is an infant.

CBD, THC, and Pregnancy

Why Would Someone Take CBD or THC During Pregnancy?

Ask any person who has been pregnant; it can be unpleasant. Sleeplessness, restless legs, nausea, acid reflux, anxiety, it’s a wild ride. And, there are some benefits of THC and CBD that arguably could assist during pregnancy:

Sleep: The enormous uncomfortable belly, the increased blood flow around the body, and a small person kicking your bladder can all contribute to sleeplessness. CBD and THC have been shown to help people to fall asleep and remain asleep. Sleep is important for physical recovery and mental well-being.

Pain Relief: As pregnancy proceeds, it places huge demands on the pregnant person. Weight gain puts additional pressure on joints, and pelvic or back pain is common. CBD has shown that it can be analgesic.

Anxiety: If you have anxiety, being pregnant can make it a lot worse. So many doubts and worries, so many people who think their (wrong) opinions should be shared with you. CBD shows that it’s effective in treating anxiety disorders.

Nausea: Morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum, and general nausea are common side effects of pregnancy, in a range of severity. A study found that some women took cannabis for Hyperemesis Gravidarum when other medications didn’t work. 82% of those people reported relief from symptoms. 84% of HG sufferers report losing weight, and 56% of people who took cannabis for their symptoms reported gaining weight within two weeks of treatment.

Possible Outcomes from CBD or THC Use During Pregnancy

First, it’s important to note that THC appears to cross the placenta. This means that unlike some other medications, the baby is exposed to it.

Before pregnancy, cannabis has been associated with sexual and reproductive health issues in men (erectile dysfunction, abnormal spermatogenesis, and testicular atrophy) and women (infertility and abnormal embryo implantation and development).

During pregnancy, adverse effects in babies could range from impaired sociobehavioral and cognitive development, foetal neurodevelopment concerns, low birth weight, and preterm birth. There may even be long term, lasting consequences for mood and cognition in the offspring. There also can be sex-dependent consequences.

There are various risks depending on the trimester but there is no ‘safe’ period of exposure.

Should You Take CBD While Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

While the science is still being investigated and debated, it’s wise to not use CBD or THC while pregnant or lactating. Until it can be proven there is zero harm to your baby, refrain from use.

However, if your health is significantly impacted and you experience relief from cannabis use, and this effect cannot be achieved using anything else, there is a case for CBD use. Things like anxiety or alcohol use have huge negative outcomes in a foetus, and if use of cannabis can avoid these issues, it may be worth speaking to a non-judgemental expert on CBD during pregnancy.

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