New research has revealed that using CBD could be as bad as alcohol for an unborn baby.
Since the legalization of CBD back in 2018, pregnant women have started to use the cannabis derivative to tackle morning sickness and back pain.
Other potential benefits of CBD for pregnant women include a reduction in anxiety and depression and improved sleep for overall improved mental health.
However, research from UNC’s School of Medicine is now telling pregnant women they should think again before taking CBD products or smoking cannabis.
Scott Parnell, an assistant professor at the school, said CBD use during pregnancy ‘could be a really big health problem’.
The professor usually studies the effect of alcohol on pregnant women but took some time out to study the effect of cannabinoids in CBD and marijuana, following recent legalizations.
CBD, a non-psychoactive compound made from hemp, was legalized when the Farm Bill was passed in 2018, while recreational marijuana is now legal in 11 states.
Parnell said his study group had given CBD and THC to pregnant mice to discover the effects. Each mouse was on its eighth day of pregnancy, which corresponds to 3 to 4 weeks of pregnancy in humans.
This early pregnancy period is often the most vulnerable for a growing embryo as many women are unaware they are pregnant. All mice were given the equivalent of what is considered a therapeutic range of CBD for humans, while the THC concentration was similar to that taken in by a person smoking cannabis.
The study found that just one-time exposure to either drug during early pregnancy could cause growth issues in developing embryos, including causing alcohol-like effects on craniofacial and brain development.
CBD and THC’s compounds emerged to cause birth issues comparable with those of fetal alcohol syndrome. Worse still, researchers discovered that a combination of either THC or CBD with alcohol during pregnancy nearly doubled the chance of such defects and especially affected the eyes.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is caused by binge drinking–ingesting four or more alcoholic drinks in two hours, for women–and is especially damaging to an embryo during the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy.
In the study, some 4% of pregnancies were revealed to be marijuana-exposed via either recreational use or as a self-administered treatment for sickness in pregnancy.
The professor said: “They are affecting the same developmental pathways, so when they are given together, they both affect those same pathways and worsen the effect of each.
“In this study, we also tested a synthetic cannabinoid in zebrafish that yielded similar growth deformations as the natural CBs. Having the same results across animal models reinforces our findings.”
Parnell is now hoping the results will cause women to think again before taking any marijuana-derived product when pregnant. It’s thought that both CBD and THC could cause birth defects as a result of interactions at a cellular level, disrupting the body’s signals between development-associated molecules and cells.
“There have been a lot of people who don’t believe it because THC, and especially CBD, are widely thought to be safe. And they may not be,” he said.
The study is the first time a connection has been discovered between cannabinoids and the mammalian womb. Researchers are now looking to run further tests, but the original findings are proving to be concerning.
“We know that there is no safe period to drink alcohol during pregnancy, and I think this research shows the same is likely true of marijuana use,” Parnell said.
The study is now online in the journal Nature Research.