Pregnant Women Warned To Stay Away From CBD Or THC Use During Early Pregnancy As Both Can Disrupt Fetal Development
A new study by researchers from the University of North Carolina published in Scientific Reports, a Nature Research
journal, shows how a one-time exposure during early pregnancy to cannabinoids
(CBs) both synthetic and natural can cause growth issues in a developing embryo. The researchers are the first to show in animal models that components of marijuana, including its cannabinoids THC
, can cause brain and facial birth defects if used during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is the first research to show such a connection in mammals.
This study was performed in mice, which are very accurate models for the development that occurs during early pregnancy, according to the study’s senior author, Dr Scott Parnell, PhD, assistant professor of cell biology and physiology in the UNC School of Medicine.
Dr Scott Parnell commented to Thailand Medical
News during a phone interview, “The development of the embryo in this time period is very similar across all vertebrates. In this study we also test a synthetic cannabinoid in zebrafish that yielded similar growth deformations as the natural CB
s. Having the same results across animal models reinforces our findings.”
The findings of the study showed that, the brain and facial developmental effects caused by one-time exposure to CB
s like CBD
(the primary ingredients of cannabis
) are very similar to what is seen in fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Parnell and colleagues also found that when CB
s and alcohol were used together, the likelihood of these birth defects more than doubled. They went on to show that these drugs may be causing defects by interacting on a basic cellular level and disrupting signaling between molecules and cells that control growth and development.
The study’s first author, Dr Eric Fish, PhD, research associate in the UNC School of Medicine Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies also told Thailand Medical
News, “The interaction between alcohol and CB
s we witnessed is very concerning,” “Previous studies have shown that CB
s and alcohol are frequently used together, and for pregnant women we’re learning that could be very dangerous to a developing child.”
The researchers gave CB
s with alcohol, in varying amounts on day eight of pregnancy, which is comparable to the third and fourth weeks of pregnancy in humans. This time period is when alcohol and CB
exposure is especially damaging to a developing embryo, and is before some women know they are pregnant. The CBD
amounts administered were within what is considered a therapeutic range for humans. The THC
concentration administered was similar to levels reached by a person smoking marijuana.
Dr Parnell added, “It is concerning how little we know about the use of cannabis
, its CB
s, and products like CBD
oil during pregnancy,” Parnell said. “We know that there is no safe period to drink alcohol during a pregnancy, and I think this research shows the same is likely true of cannabis
With the results of these one-time exposures, Parnell and Fish are planning to now test smaller, multiple exposures throughout a pregnancy that better mimics real-life usage in human pregnancy.
The findings of the study basically warn all pregnant women to avoid even a single one time exposure to CBD
especially during the first few weeks of their pregnancy.
Reference: Cannabinoids Exacerbate Alcohol Teratogenesis by a CB1-Hedgehog Interaction, Eric W. Fish,,Laura B. Murdaugh,,Chengjin Zhang,Karen E,. Boschen,Oswald ,Boa-Amponsem, Somnath Mukhopadhyay, Gregory J. Cole, Kevin P. Williams & Scott E. Parnell et al, Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 16057 (2019) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-52336-w