Local News

CBD, pot could be as bad as alcohol for your unborn baby

Posted January 2, 2020 5:40 p.m. EST
Updated January 2, 2020 5:49 p.m. EST

— Pregnancy can be an exciting time for a family. It can also be a time when a woman is overwhelmed with information.

"You know as soon as people find out that you're pregnant, immediately you start getting opinions," said Mila Litchfield who is 20 weeks into her first pregnancy.

She says she's extremely careful about what she puts into her body and avoids so many things including aspirin products as recommended by her doctor

"It's such a huge responsibility to be giving life that you just don't want to go there or I certainly don't want to even test," she said.

But some women, especially those dealing with morning sickness, are starting to experiment with CBD. CBD oils and gummies are now common in drug stores. CBD comes from hemp and is marketed as natural, so it's the kind of thing a well meaning friend, or even a spouse, may suggest. But new research suggests you should stay away.

"This could be a really big public health problem," said Scott Parnell, an assistant professor at UNC's school of Medicine.

Parnell usually studies the effects of alcohol during pregnancy, but wanted to look into cannabinoids with the recent legalization of marijuana in some states and the popularity of CBD.

"So we gave these drugs to pregnant mice," he said. "We used CBD by itself as well as THC which is the main active ingredient in marijuana."

He said what they found was alarming. One-time exposure to the drugs early in pregnancy can cause growth issues in developing embryos. This is the first time this link has been shown in mammals. The experiment was performed on mice that were 8 days pregnant which is similar to the third or fourth week of human pregnancy.

"These compounds in THC and CBD induce birth defects that are very similar to what we see in fetal alcohol syndrome," Parnell said.

The researchers say they were surprised to see what happened when they combined THC or CBD with alcohol. It nearly doubled the chances of birth defects.

"They are affecting the same developmental pathways so when they are given together they both effect those same pathways and worsen the effect of each," Parnell said.

He's hoping the results can cause women to pause before trying the trendy products.

"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," Parnell said.

Another thing to add to a long list of things to avoid soon-to-be moms.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.