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Cannabidiol — better known as CBD — is quickly becoming popular in the health and wellness realm.

It’s one of over 120 cannabinoids, or chemicals, found in the cannabis plant, and its list of potential uses and benefits continues to grow.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid, CBD doesn’t produce the “high” you might associate with cannabis.

It may, however, help ease pain, nausea, and symptoms of other health conditions.

With more and more people turning to CBD for relief from various physical and mental health symptoms, you might begin to wonder about using CBD during pregnancy. After all, it’s a natural, plant-based substance.

Those facts aside, experts do not consider CBD safe to use during pregnancy. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly warns pregnant and nursing people against using any cannabis product, including CBD, saying the products could pose serious risks to the fetus or a nursing baby.

Experts continue to research CBD’s benefits as well as its potential side effects. There’s still plenty to learn about this compound, but a few currently recognized benefits include the following.

Pain relief

A 2017 study on rats suggested CBD injections help lower pain after surgical incisions.

According to an older rat study, oral CBD appeared to significantly lower sciatic nerve pain and inflammation.

Research from 2018 also suggested CBD can be beneficial in treating chronic pain associated with nervous system disorders, cancer, and fibromyalgia.

Nausea relief

Animal research suggests that CBD could help soothe nausea, since it’s linked to serotonin receptors.

The hormone serotonin helps regulate your mood and overall sense of well-being, but it also helps provoke nausea or diarrhea when you eat something that disagrees with you.

Improved sleep and reduced anxiety

A 2019 study explored whether CBD could help improve sleep or reduce anxiety.

In the study’s first month, 79.2 percent of the participants reported reduced anxiety levels and 66.7 percent said they experienced better sleep. Sleep quality varied over the course of the study, but reduced anxiety levels held.

If you’re currently pregnant, there’s a good chance you may have considered trying CBD for these very reasons — pain, nausea and morning sickness, insomnia, and anxiety are common pregnancy symptoms.

Yet, since very little research to date explores the use of CBD during pregnancy, experts still aren’t sure how it might affect fetal health and development.

Are any CBD products approved by the FDA?

While CBD products may be legal in many parts of the United States, the FDA has yet to approve any over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products.

In fact, there’s just one FDA-approved medication containing CBD available right now: Epidiolex, a medication that treats three forms of epilepsy.

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As noted above, CBD doesn’t produce the “high” THC does. You might assume this makes CBD safe to use during pregnancy, but experts still recommend avoiding it entirely.

Not only is the research around CBD and pregnancy very limited, but also most existing studies involve animals. Plus, the results of these studies have prompted some concerns.

For example, an older 1986 study suggests that exposure to CBD during gestation or the day after birth affected sperm count and testicular function in male rats, but there isn’t any recent data to back up this claim.

A 2019 study also suggested that fetal exposure to cannabinoids could affect immune system development and possibly weaken the body’s ability to defend against cancer and infections. That said, the study referred to cannabinoids in general rather than specifically focusing on CBD.

The study authors also noted that cannabinoids mainly work by binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. They went on to explain, though, that both THC and CBD can also bind to other receptors, which could have other developmental or health consequences during pregnancy and nursing.

Future research may help shed more light on possible risks of CBD use during pregnancy or while nursing.

Some healthcare professionals have also expressed concerns that people who are pregnant or nursing might accidentally use contaminated CBD products.

With CBD popularity soaring, products have become very easy to find. You might have even noticed some at your local grocery store, depending on where you live.

Of course, when it comes to quality, not all CBD products measure up. Quality products will include third-party lab reports showing that the product has been tested for contaminants, like mold, pesticides, and heavy metals.

Learn more about finding quality CBD products.

Plus, some CBD products may include THC in trace amounts. These traces of THC can still be passed on to a nursing baby.

Experts strongly recommend avoiding THC while pregnant or nursing, since research suggests it may:

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that, while these studies do suggest an association, that’s not the same as conclusive proof. They also don’t consider other factors, like potency or frequency of use.

Keep in mind, too, that CBD can potentially cause a few side effects, including:

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • appetite changes

CBD can also interact with certain medications. Even if you aren’t currently pregnant or nursing, you’ll typically want to check with your doctor before trying CBD.

These side effects might not seem all that alarming, particularly when you’re experiencing pain, persistent pregnancy sickness, or lack of sleep. But again, one of the biggest concerns around CBD use in pregnancy stems from the lack of research.

In short, experts don’t know enough about how CBD could affect fetal health and development, and what they *do* know has prompted some concerns.

There’s no doubt that pregnancy can cause plenty of physical discomfort. While nausea sometimes (though not always) clears up after a few months, other symptoms, like pain, anxiety, and insomnia, can linger throughout pregnancy.

It’s always best to share any symptoms you experience with your care team, along with any questions you might have about medications to avoid during pregnancy.

Your care team can help you find safe treatments and home remedies to help ease pregnancy-related discomfort. Keeping them updated on your symptoms can also help them recognize signs of more serious health complications early on.

That goes for mental health symptoms, too. You might prefer to avoid prescription antidepressants during pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other emotional distress untreated.

A therapist can offer support and guidance on safe treatment options during pregnancy.

You might feel tempted to turn to CBD to help ease the pain and discomfort associated with pregnancy, but for the moment, experts caution against using any cannabis product during pregnancy.

Your healthcare professional can offer more recommendations for safe alternatives to manage medical and mental health symptoms during pregnancy.

Breanna Mona is a writer based in Cleveland, Ohio. She holds a master’s degree in media and journalism and writes about health, lifestyle, and entertainment.