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CBD During Pregnancy – Many Assume It’s Safe Despite Lack of Evidence, Study Finds

By Alexander Beadle

Published: Oct 24, 2019   
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While people generally understand the dangers associated with alcohol and pregnancy, and take steps to avoid drinking alcohol in response, they may be far less skeptical about the safety of cannabidiol (CBD) products.

This is the conclusion of a new study presented this week at the Anesthesiology 2019 annual meeting by researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, exploring attitudes towards the safety of CBD, marijuana, and alcohol use in pregnancy.

They found that nearly 30 percent of women of “childbearing age” surveyed believed that topical CBD creams would be safe to use during pregnancy, compared to fewer than 10 percent who believed that one alcoholic drink per week would be safe.

One fifth of women surveyed said they would consider using other forms of CBD to reduce feelings of anxiety during pregnancy, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support CBD’s use during pregnancy.

The study comes at a time where the number of pregnant people admitting to using cannabis and other cannabis products during pregnancy is on the rise in the United States.


Attitudes towards CBD in pregnancy relaxed compared to other substances

According to the abstract submitted ahead of the presentation, researchers surveyed 113 physician anesthesiologists, 9 certified nurse midwives, 48 doulas (trained, non-medical companions who support individuals during pregnancy), and 315 women aged between 18 and 44 years old as a part of the survey.

They found that while only 9 percent of women believed that one alcoholic drink would be safe to use while pregnant, 29 percent thought that a topical CBD cream would be safe.

Physician anesthesiologists and certified nurse midwives surveyed were more skeptical, with 18 percent and 20 percent respectively believing topical CBD creams to be safe. Contrastingly, 70 percent of doulas believed CBD topicals to be safe during pregnancy.

Other key survey findings from the women surveyed include:

  • 20 percent of women surveyed would consider using CBD to reduce anxiety during pregnancy, with similar support for controlling nausea and pain in pregnancy
  • 29 percent would consider using CBD products during labor

In comparison, anesthesiologists surveyed were generally more conservative in their support for using CBD, whereas the certified nurse midwives and doulas were more positive in their attitudes than the female members of the public surveyed.

  • Only 7 percent of anesthesiologists would consider using CBD to reduce anxiety in pregnancy or labor
  • For nausea, 12 percent would consider its use during pregnancy and 8 percent during labor
  • 42 percent of certified nurse midwives would consider recommending CBD to reduce anxiety during pregnancy, and 33 percent during labor
  • 54 percent of doulas would consider recommending CBD to reduce anxiety during pregnancy, and 44 percent during labor


Consequences for medical professionals

Despite these relatively high figures, the researchers found CBD requests are still uncommon in maternity wards.  

In light of these findings, the authors advise anesthesiologists to be more aware of patients who may be taking CBD products and to be more vigilant in asking their patients about CBD use.

“We observed women and doulas using CBD lotions during pregnancy and labor to reduce nausea, anxiety and pain, although no studies have examined its benefits, no safety data exists, and its effects are largely unknown,” said Mark Zakowski, senior author of the study and chief of obstetrical anesthesiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in a statement.

“That’s concerning because CBD may interact with commonly used anesthetics that might be needed during labor and delivery. And ongoing CBD use has shown the potential to act like a common class of antidepressants, SSRI inhibitors, which can adversely interact with other drugs.”

The researchers have called for further research to be carried out into the safety of CBD being taken by pregnant people. Dr Zakowski has also advised that anybody – not just pregnant people – undergoing surgery should be sure to inform their anesthesiologist if they are using CBD or other herbal products.

Alexander Beadle

Science Writer

Alexander Beadle has been working as a freelance science writer since 2017 and has covered the cannabis industry for Analytical Cannabis since 2018. He has also written for our sister publication, Technology Networks, and the cannabis industry consultant firm Prohibition Partners, among others. Alexander holds a Master's in Materials Chemistry from the University of St. Andrews, where he won a Chemistry Purdie scholarship, and conducted research into zeolite crystal growth mechanisms and the action of single-molecule transistors.


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