July 27, 2022 7 min read

If you’re looking into the benefits of CBD during pregnancy in hopes of forgoing other prescription medications, you’ll be happy to know that you aren’t alone! You’ll also be happy to hear that CBD topicals, like creams and salves, don’t make it into the bloodstream, so many expecting mothers are comfortable using CBD to manage localized pain and discomfort.

Of course, some women decide to skip out on CBD until more safety research is available. The truth is that CBD’s side effect profile of CBD may be much less risky than that of various prescription medications, although it still isn’t FDA approved for the treatment of any conditions during pregnancy.

If you’re one of the many moms-to-be wondering “Is topical CBD safe during pregnancy?”

Here’s what you need to know to decide for yourself: 

Table of Contents
What are CBD Topicals?
How Do CBD Topicals Affect the Placenta and Pregnancy?
Does CBD from Topicals Reach the Bloodstream?
What are the Benefits of CBD Topicals?
How to Use CBD Topicals
CBD Topical Dosage
Is CBD Cream Legal?
Is CBD Cream Safe for Babies?
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • CBD is not FDA approved for use on pregnant women, but some sources suggest that it may have potential benefits.
  • CBD topicals don’t reach the blood stream like ingested products, so many women consider them to be a safer option.
  • CBD’s potential skin care benefits may line up with some pregnancy-related skin concerns, but you should talk to your doctor before using CBD during pregnancy.

What are CBD Topicals?

Hemp extract can be added to topical formulations alongside carrier oils to create CBD topicals like lotions, skin serums, balms, bath products, and more.

An example of a hemp lotion and hemp salve that may be useful for pregnancy related skin concerns and muscle pains.

Full spectrum topicals, or CBD topicals that utilize full spectrum hemp extract that contains trace amounts of many minor cannabinoids, including THC. These products are believed to offer the benefits of the “entourage effect” even to THC-restricted consumers.

More research is needed to understand how the entourage effect of full spectrum products may benefit the skin, but these phytocannabinoid-rich applications are often chosen for skin ailments and muscle and joint discomfort.

However, CBD topicals are most frequently made with CBD isolate, which may add an extra layer of protection for pregnant mothers since these formulas contain no THC at all. 

There have been no human studies to indicate the bioavailability of CBD in topicals, but a 2018 review suggests “transdermal CBD gel and topical creams have been demonstrated to be successful in animal studies.” Animal studies have also shown that topical CBD applications may have therapeutic value for managing arthritis.

All in all, there are many reasons why pregnant women may look into the potential benefits of CBD topicals. We’ll get to that below, but lets talk safety first:

How Do CBD Topicals Affect the Placenta and Pregnancy?

It’s true that experts advise that CBD should be avoided during pregnancy because it may penetrate the placenta, but this advice typically refers to ingestible forms of CBD that circulate through the bloodstream.

Moreover, the advice mostly comes from the fact that CBD is poorly regulated and still widely misunderstood, and some claims suggest that oral CBD could be useful for managing certain pregnancy-related symptoms, like nausea and vomiting. due to their ability to penetrate the placenta.

But what about topical CBD? How does it affect the placenta and the pregnancy?

Good question!

The answer is–we aren’t entirely sure, and research isn’t typically carried out on pregnant women or unborn children for safety (and moral) related reasons. While there hasn't been any research to suggest that CBD topicals are safe for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, there hasn't been any research to suggest that it may be harmful, either.

A variety of CBD topicals, oils, and other products that may be safe to use during pregnancy.

Does CBD from Topicals Reach the Bloodstream?

According to a 2017 study, THC applied to the skin cannot be found in the bloodstream or urine afterwards. The same is expected to be true for all cannabinoids, including CBD.

Since CBD topicals don’t reach the bloodstream, they are unlikely to make it to the placenta or have any impact on the pregnancy at all. More research is needed to fully understand the capabilities of CBD topicals, but many mothers have anecdotally highlighted a few potential benefits of using CBD topicals during pregnancy (at their own risk, of course). 

What are the Benefits of CBD Topicals?

CBD topicals, unlike ingested forms of CBD, don't typically make it to the bloodstream because they don't penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. Instead, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in the cutaneous layers that are closer to the surface.

Although research to evaluate the benefits of CBD topicals is still underway, some research keys us in on the following potential benefits:

Skin Conditions

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), CBD could be useful for managing certain inflammatory skin conditions, like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

Because expecting mothers are prone to skin changes, like rashes, sensitivities, break outs, and itching, this could be of benefit. Of course, more research is needed to understand if CBD has any benefits for pregnancy-specific skin concerns.

Pruritis

Pruritis is the medical term for itchy skin, which may or may not have a known cause. Up to 20% of pregnant women experience pruritis, which is typically difficult to treat. One study found that a variety of different cannabinoids, including CBD, may be useful for soothing pruritis. Because the cause for this itching condition may be unknown, it’s fair to say that CBD won’t help in all cases, but it may still be worth discussing with your doctor.

Arthritis

We mentioned above that some research has found CBD to be potentially useful for managing arthritis. This 2016 study involving mice found that CBD, when applied topically, may have long lasting benefits for reducing inflammation and pain-related behaviors caused by arthritis. Some experts believe that CBD’s potential ability to reduce inflammation may be behind many of it’s topical benefits.

Peripheral neuropathy

CBD may have one other major benefit–the ability to reduce nerve-related pains.

A 2020 study found that CBD may help to reduce pain related to neuropathy, a condition characterized by nerve damage that causes numbness and weakness in the hands and feet.

It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to experience nerve-related pain, especially sciatic nerve pain as the baby grows and places pressure on the sciatic nerve. There’s currently no research to help us understand whether CBD may be useful for managing sciatica or other pains that pregnant women may face, but it’s ability to help sooth nerve-related conditions looks promising.

How to Use CBD Topicals

If you and your doctor decide that CBD topicals are the right choice for you, you’ll quickly learn that there are many different forms of CBD on the market. Of course many CBD products are ingestible, meaning they are designed to work systemically and not locally. Still, you’ll find a small variety of different CBD topicals, typically broken down into two basic formulas:

CBD Muscle Cream

A CBD muscle cream may be a balm or a lotion, but usually includes potent doses of CBD alongside essential oils or other pain-relieving ingredients.

Our CBD Muscle Rub, for instance, combines a potent CBD extract with hand selected botanicals, including cooling menthol, soothing arnica, and a powerful dose of turmeric oil. The combination is designed to support blood flow, lower inflammation, and offer a synergy that helps to calm pain and discomfort in the joints and muscles.

CBD Balm

CBD balm, on the other hand, may or may not include a botanical blend. These formulas are typically intended to treat topical ailments, like skin issues, and may include milder essential oils like lavender or geranium, They typically avoid any ingredients that may penetrate deeper or irritate sensitive skin.

Our CBD Skin Balm is designed to sooth topical scrapes, cuts, burns, and more. The functional formula combines nourishing rosehip oil and shea nut butter with rejuvenating essential oils to help support optimal skin health and healing.

CBD Topical Dosage

Unlike typical CBD products, there’s not usually a precise way to measure CBD topicals. Instead, you should just apply as much as needed to cover the affected area. Because topicals don’t have a systemic impact, meaning they don’t reach the bloodstream, you should be able to reapply them as needed. Follow the directions given on the label for reapplication since some other ingredients may cause an adverse reaction with overuse.

Is CBD Cream Legal?

CBD is usually derived from hemp, a form of cannabis that’s federally legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. By the definition used in this bill, hemp includes all of its cannabinoids, isomers, salts, extracts, and other derivatives, and any product made from hemp-derivatives, so long as it contains less than 0.3% Delta-9-THC. In other words, CBD creams are legal by federal standards assuming they contain less tan 0.3% Delta-9-THC.

Is CBD Cream Safe for Babies?

Although the jury is still out on whether CBD is safe for expecting or breastfeeding mothers, many women may wonder whether they can use CBD topicals on their baby after birth.

Of course, the answer is the same–CBD topicals are not FDA approved or recommended for children, but there may still be some benefits worth discussing with your doctor. One CBD-based pharmaceutical is, however, approved for use in children with intractable forms of epilepsy, so it’s fair to say that CBD may be safe for children in severe cases when used under a doctor’s guidance.

In short, CBD may have some potential to help soothe certain skin ailments, especially in severe cases, but you should consult your child's doctor first.

Final Verdict: Is Topical CBD Safe During Pregnancy?

In general, the verdict on the safety of topical CBD during pregnancy is still unclear. If you’re going to risk using CBD during pregnancy, CBD topicals may be the best bet because they do not reach the bloodstream.

There has yet to be any evidence to prove that CBD is either safe or unsafe for expecting mothers, and you should always work with your own healthcare provider to evaluate the risks and benefits involved for you.

Resources

  1. “A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6275223/
  2. “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925/
  3. “Topical application of THC containing products is not able to cause positive cannabinoid finding in blood or urine” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28122323/
  4. “Public, researchers demonstrate growing interest in cannabis treatment” https://www.aad.org/news/topical-cannabis
  5. “Cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pruritus: A review” https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(20)30120-1/fulltext#:~:text=In%20general%2C%20increased%20activity%20at,shown%20to%20increase%20AEA%20levels 
  6. “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925/
  7. “The Effectiveness of Topical Cannabidiol Oil in Symptomatic Relief of Peripheral Neuropathy of the Lower Extremities” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31793418/ 

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