Recent research has discovered potential dangers of using CBD during pregnancy. The study undertaken at the University of Minnesota found some potential adverse effects of CBD, especially when taken during pregnancy, with a preliminary study in mice showing that CBD has a lasting impact on offspring even into adulthood.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal Clinical Epigenetics, saw researchers give pregnant mice CBD daily during pregnancy and in the nursing period. They then studied the behaviour of the mice’s offspring, which had no CBD exposure after weaning them. Researchers used mice for the experiment because they wanted to study the effects of CBD on mammals with a shorter lifespan, enabling them to see the results in their offspring within a couple of months.
Although male mice had relatively few behaviour changes, the female mice had thousands of changes in their gene expression. Female mice also had worsened anxiety but improved memory behaviour compared to males despite having no direct contact with CBD.
According to the study’s authors the findings demonstrate for the first time that despite positive effects of direct exposure, developmental CBD is associated with mixed behavioural outcomes and perturbation of the brain epigenome.
There is increasing interest in the beneficial effects of cannabinoids for psychological phenotypes as well as for pregnancy-related concerns such as hyperemesis. This combination warrants careful investigation regarding the potential impacts of exposure to CBD during development, especially given the known negative effects of prenatal THC.
“CBD has now exploded in popularity and yet, we don’t have very much information about what it does during gestation in humans,” said University researcher and co-author Dr. Christopher Faulk. “There are many, many humans who are taking these compounds, almost certainly during pregnancy, so it’s vital for us to find this out.”
Dr. Nicole Wanner, a postdoctoral fellow in the College of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of the study, said their work is even more critical now as CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) become legalized in different states around the country. While CBD and THC are both chemical compounds found in cannabis plants, THC produces a “high” when smoked or ingested.
“The fact that CBD is indicated for a lot of things that might happen during pregnancy, like nausea or pain, makes us pretty concerned that this would be a potential exposure for people,” Wanner said. “Some people can also perceive something that’s from a plant as maybe more natural compared to using a conventional drug. But that is not always necessarily the case. Plants can contain some highly active ingredients that can be just as impactful as any other drug.”
Although this study has not been conducted on humans yet, researchers say people should be wary of using CBD while pregnant, especially as more people use CBD to alleviate symptoms like nausea or pain that often accompany pregnancy.
Wanner said they plan to conduct additional studies, particularly exploring CBD’s impact on mice’s adolescent development. She said adolescence is a typical age for the onset of mental health disorders in humans. Because few regulations prohibit those under 18 from purchasing CBD products online, Wanner said looking into CBD’s effects on brain development in youth is especially important.
“I struggle to think of any sort of category of substance where research into it had been essentially prohibited for decades and then all of a sudden humans started taking massive quantities of it,” Faulk said. “There’s a huge gap in the human use and in the human research. It’s almost unprecedented compared to other substances. … We’ve got to catch up.”