Marijuana and its various distillates like cannabidiol (CBD) are increasingly popular among pregnant women dealing with morning sickness, but the U.S. Surgeon General has issued a strong warning against this practice.
"Marijuana use during pregnancy can affect the developing fetus," according to a statement from Vice Adm. Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General. "THC can enter the fetal brain from the mother's bloodstream and may disrupt the endocannabinoid system, which is important for a healthy pregnancy and fetal brain development. Moreover, studies have shown that marijuana use in pregnancy is associated with adverse outcomes, including lower birth weight."
Adams cited studies showing the number of pregnant women who had used marijuana in the past month doubled (3.4% to 7%) between 2002 and 2017, and that any marijuana use by pregnant women rose by 69% (4.2% to 7.1%) between 2009 and 2016.
"Alarmingly, many retail dispensaries recommend marijuana to pregnant women for morning sickness," Adams said. "Maternal marijuana use may still be dangerous to the baby after birth. THC has been found in breast milk for up to six days after the last recorded use. It may affect the newborn's brain development and result in hyperactivity, poor cognitive function, and other long-term consequences."
While the scientific literature is more clear about the detrimental effects of consuming whole cannabis products (i.e. smoking or eating marijuana products), there is less information about the potential effects of non-psychoactive marijuana component CBD on pregnant women and their fetuses.
"While CBD is not intoxicating and does not lead to addiction, its long-term effects are largely unknown, and most CBD products are untested and of uncertain purity," Adams said.
CBD has been the subject of much excitement in the research community over the past decade. It has shown a potential to treat myriad conditions, from nausea and vomiting, to insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder, to arthritis pain and irritable bowel disorders.
In summer of 2018, for example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first CBD-based prescription pharmaceutical – Epidiolex – to treat childhood seizures.
CBD is still hard to study because of the U.S. federal government's classification of pot as a Schedule I dangerous drug of abuse. Interest in CBD in the medical research community is also relatively recent, so relatively few studies on its effectiveness and safety exist.