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CBD and Fertility, Pregnancy or Breastfeeding: What You Need To Know

cbd and fertility, pregnancy or breastfeeding

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Several chronic and acute conditions have been treated with CBD oil due to its many health benefits. While the World Health Organization (WHO) states that CBD oil generally is well-tolerated and safe, there are a number of questions that remain unanswered, including whether CBD oil has any effect on fertility, pregnancy, or breastfeeding?

The effects of CBD on fertility and pregnancy are not well understood right now. You might be surprised to learn that only 10% of medications on the market are adequately studied to determine whether they are safe to take during pregnancy.

The CBD effect on fertility, pregnancy or breastfeeding simply hasn’t been adequately researched despite all the health claims from online forums.  In contrast to marijuana with high levels of THC, CBD has been studied much less extensively, and the few clinical studies of CBD have either been in vitro studies or studies done on animals.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), the most prestigious OB-GYN group, does not have any specific recommendations for CBD. However, it does recommend that pregnant women, people breastfeeding, or those trying to conceive, avoid smoking marijuana – and to consult their healthcare provider before using cannabis.

CBD, however, has been specifically recommended to be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Since the ACOG does not yet have a specific recommendation for CBD, and there is a lot of misinformation floating around, we’re going to share what we know so far about CBD and fertility, pregnancy, and breastfeeding:

CBD and female fertility

A surprising number of couples struggle with infertility. At least 10 percent of females age 15 to 44 have trouble becoming or staying pregnant, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Let’s start by talking about science and hormones. Researchers at Vanderbilt University’s Paediatrics Department say that a healthy endocannabinoid system is vital for egg development and pregnancy.

Furthermore, researchers present experiments that demonstrate that the endocannabinoid system also influences female reproductive function in the paper “The role of the endocannabinoid system in female reproductive tissues”.

Many other studies also indicate a positive relationship between a healthy ECS and improved fertility, especially the benefit of endocannabinoids such as anandamide.

Low levels or a deficiency of anandamide, an endocannabinoid that occurs during ovulation, can pose a risk to the pregnancy. High levels of anandamide at ovulation are clinically related to a successful pregnancy. Boosting anandamide levels is possible with CBD, as it prevents an enzyme called FAAH from destroying it. Anandamide levels may be boosted by CBD, thereby supporting successful ovulation. 

It’s all about the timing here, though!

During embryo implantation (once the egg meets the sperm and attempts to get nestled into the uterus), anandamide levels are low, which means using CBD after conception could adversely affect pregnancy.

Female ovaries, including the granulosa cells and follicles cells of secondary and tertiary follicles, have also been found to contain cannabinoid receptors.

CBD and male fertility

Infertility issues are not exclusive to women. Both men and women are affected by this issue. An estimated 35 percent of infertility cases are caused by men, and another 35 percent by women. A further 20 percent can be attributed to a combination of both the gender’s factors, and the remaining 10 percent is unknown.

A study from 2015 found that more than once a week cannabis consumption decreased sperm concentration and total sperm count by 28 percent and 29 percent, respectively. Nevertheless, another study released in 2019 indicated the opposite. The researchers found that sperm concentrations in 662 men with penises who went to a fertility center were higher among those who smoked cannabis previously.

As we mentioned CBD and THC, which are found in marijuana, have significant differences. While more research needs to be done on how CBD affects human male reproductive systems, here’s what we know from one study on animal subjects with CBD oil:

Results from an analysis of animal test subjects suggest that CBD oil is actually inhibiting fertility. An experiment on 21-day old male mice, which received a horse dose of mg, found that the group treated with cannabidiol (CBD oil) experienced a 30% reduction in fertility, while another experiment on sea urchins determined that CBD inhibited the process of fertilization by reducing the capacity of sperm to fertilize.

There is some uncertainty as to whether any of this information is applicable to humans who use CBD, according to the review authors

CBD and pregnancy

Can CBD be used while pregnant? Pregnant women often use CBD to treat symptoms such as morning sickness, nausea, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and chronic pain.

CBD should not be taken for any of these reasons, however, and we are sorry to repeat ourselves, but we simply do not yet know how CBD will affect pregnant women. So far, we have the following evidence:

  • Detectable levels of CBD were found in the umbilical cord serum and their first bowel movement of babies whose mothers smoked non-medicinal cannabis during pregnancy based on a study conducted in 2018.
  • It appears that CBD does indeed make its way into the fetal system. The Journal of Pediatrics published research in 2018, investigating the association between prenatal cannabis use and adverse neonatal outcomes, including low birth weights, small babies for gestation age, and premature births.
  • According to a 2019 study, CBD harms fetuses and embryos in animals. As a reminder, animal research may not necessarily apply to humans.
  • A study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, in 2013- “Cannabidiol changes P-gp and BCRP expression in trophoblast cell lines”- explored the effects of CBD on Pgp and BCRP expression in trophoblast cell lines, suggesting that CBD consumption during pregnancy might alter the placenta’s properties.

Note, however, that the above studies were conducted with animals, and were not centered on CBD alone, which contains very little THC, but on marijuana, which has a high percentage of THC.

CBD and breastfeeding

Following giving birth, a woman’s body goes through several changes that can cause pains, mental health issues, stress, and nausea. An evaluation of the thyroid, gallbladder, or liver following childbirth is appropriate. Unfortunately, the range of approved safe remedies available is limited because many prescription medications cause adverse side effects that can endanger the nursing mother as well as her new baby.

There have been studies on THC in breast milk rather than CBD, and the conclusion has been that low levels of the psychoactive ingredient can be transferred to your baby.

As a result of a study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, it was found that breastfed babies between three and five months of age ingest about 2.5 percent of the THC that the mothers consumed while pregnant. (Researchers, however, did not test blood samples taken from the babies for THC concentrations.)

The dose an infant would receive would be about 1,000 times lower than a mother’s, at this time there are no clear indicators for where people will fall along this spectrum. However, it is unknown whether or not that amount will have a noticeable impact on the brain development of a child.

Medical News Today reports that trying to “pump and dump” does not work for cannabis products, as chemical compounds from the drug can contaminate breast milk days or weeks prior to breastfeeding. Furthermore, another study published in Pediatrics showed that low levels of THC are found in breast milk for up to six days after cannabis consumption.

However, this study was conducted with marijuana and THC, not hemp and CBD. Experts worry, however, that cannabinoids may have harmful effects on an infant’s brain development.

It is critical to conduct more analysis and research on the effect of CBD oil on breastfeeding mothers and their infants. At this point, we have no idea what short- or long-term effects it may have on the baby.

CBD and in vitro fertilization (IVF)?

As of yet, no clinical studies have been done on the safety and effectiveness of CBD with IVF. While we are aware that reducing stress after IVF treatments can have a beneficial impact on fertility, this was done with clowns, not CBD. Is CBD capable of the same thing? No one knows.

IVF outcomes among male-female, non-donor IVF patients that use or don’t use cannabis are only evaluated in one study (retrospective cohort) from a single IVF center. In addition to evaluating ongoing pregnancy rates, the researchers also studied oocyte yield, fertilization rate, peak serum estradiol, sperm quality, and embryo quality.

The overall sample consisted of 722 patients, 68 (9.4%) of whom used cannabis, mostly in a light manner.

Between the non-users and users, the study showed similar rates of implantation (40.74 vs. 41.13%), as well as ongoing pregnancy (35.2% vs. 29.1%). In any of the other analyzed outcomes, no significant difference could be found between users and non-users.

There was no clear evidence of cannabis consumption negatively impacting IVF outcomes, as per the results. Study limitations include its retrospective nature, the fact that users reported their cannabis usage, and the small sample size. The findings need to be validated in a larger prospective study.

Considering that CBD can hinder the breakdown of some drugs by specific p450 liver enzymes, you should consult with your healthcare provider before using CBD during IVF, to minimize the risk of unwanted side effects and failure of expensive and time-intensive IVF.

What if I use CBD before realizing I’m pregnant?

Please don’t panic if you use CBD regularly or if you used it before you got a positive pregnancy test.

 Marco Mouanness, MD, a specialist in OB/GYN and infertility at the Rejuvenating Fertility Center in New York City, says you probably won’t need to worry. CBD usage earlier in pregnancy will not cause any problems as long as you stop using it right away, since the cannabinoid receptors of type I & II (CB1 & CBII) that THC & CBD bind to are not found in significant quantities in the fetus until 19 weeks of the pregnancy.

In the case of using CBD or cannabis products prior to conception, it is always a good idea to inform your OB/GYN.

Key Takeaways

It’s complicated, as you probably know. Unfortunately, we do not know how CBD may affect a human reproductive system or a developing fetus.

Despite the fact that CBD might be less potent than THC, there are still so many unanswered questions that you shouldn’t use it if you’re planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant. For the time being, EFSA and FDA are the only bodies that offer any suggestions regarding CBD during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and they urge people to stay away from it. 

Talking to your healthcare provider about substance use is always a good idea.

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This article was written by an independent and third-party author specialising in CBD, hemp and cannabis research. Any opinion, advice or recommendation expressed in the article does not reflect the opinion of Kana Biosciences Ltd. or any of our employees. 

All information on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice or instruction nor meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. We do not make any health claims about our products and recommend consulting with a qualified medical doctor or physician prior to consuming our products or preparing a treatment plan for any and all diseases or ailments. It is especially important for those who are pregnant, nursing, chronically ill, elderly or under the age of 18 years of age to discuss the use of these products with a physician prior to consuming. 

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