With cannabis legalization and use on the rise, mothers are beginning to consider the potential for CBD and THC as useful birth aids and delivery pain medication for their babies in place of Pitocin, epidurals and other traditional birthing drugs.
When Kelley started to feel contractions, she dropped a “bath bomb” in her tub and slid in, letting the warm water and the THC and CBD from the cannabis mixed into the bomb relax her body and hasten the arrival of her child, as midwives have reportedly been doing in the delivery of babies for centuries.
“As old witch warriors, this was our go-to way to help during labor,” Kelley explained via phone interview.
A mother of three, she is committed to passing on what she has learned about using cannabis to manage pain during birth: according to her, It works and it works well.
Bath Bombs and Tinctures for Relief
Cannamommy.org, her company based out of the Humboldt, CA area, promotes using CBD in conjunction with THC to ease pain and speed up contractions. The “bath bomb” she used in her labor is an item her company makes and sells. Ingredients include essential oils, baking soda, Epsom salts and of course, CBD and THC. “There are others on the market”, Kelley explains, “but we make ours specifically for pregnant mothers.”
Kelley also endorses using CBD tincture on the laboring mother’s cervix and is living proof of the ointment’s value. “I basically infused cannabis oils with both THC and CBD into olive oil and added vitamin D and E and started to use it during transition to help reduce tearing and pain. I didn’t feel the ring of fire and [my infant son] was out super fast, with 8 minutes of pushing.” Kelley’s son’s birth was her 2nd successful VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean).
This is noteworthy, as many hospitals now have anti-VBAC rules to discourage mothers from trying for VBACs, citing maternal risks including a ruptured uterus, which has about a 1.5 percent chance of happening, and can be fatal. Ironically, Pitocin, which is often used to induce labor, is thought to potentially lead to a C-section due to it speeding up labor so much; the contractions then put stress on the mother and baby and require emergency surgery to get the baby safely, quickly delivered. Mothers that are now opting to use CBD and THC not only to manage pain, but often in the place of Pitocin, as in Kelley’s case, are raving about their experiences via the internet and whisper networks.
Hemp vs. Cannabis: Sourcing CBD
Across the country in North Carolina, Sarah Ruiz, a certified integrative nutrition health coach and mother of one (with another on the way), also endorses CBD oil in pregnancy and labor. On her website, HealthBySarah.com, she writes, “I am considering trying CBD oil for natural labor pain management in my next labor. It has been shown to reduce pain and even has a relaxing effect on oxytocin-induced uterine contractions.”
She feels confident that it is a safe option for pain management. “People don’t think twice about taking hemp seeds or hemp oil, which is what CBD oil is derived from,” she elaborated in an e-mail exchange. “If it helps mothers to avoid drugs, including the epidural, then I think it is a wonderful and safe alternative.”
Sarah recommends mothers consume CBD oil closer to the due date and then take more when going into labor. She recommends only using high-quality CBD oil, such as Purium, a brand which she is a proponent of and sells via her website, and advises that mothers use a combo of CBD and low amounts of THC.
“It is widely thought that full-spectrum CBD (CBD with THC) is more therapeutic than CBD isolate (CBD alone). The legal limit of THC in the US is .3% and that amount is not enough to be psychoactive. [Purium] has only .04% THC in the last 2 lab reports.”
Meanwhile, more and more mothers are coming forward to praise the new-old knowledge of cannabis’s incredible birthing benefits. In a mom chat group entitled ‘Ganja Mamas’ on the parenting website WhatToExpect.com, one mom anonymously shared, “Just had my baby at a birth center without a [sic] epidural…During 24 hours of contractions, I was taking droppers of cbd oil (500mg) to ease pain and anxiety…THC didn’t take the pain away, but it may have helped.”
Another mother, Ruth DiTulio, admitted to using homemade CBD distillate pills during her labor. “After almost 24 hours of labor and at only 6 cm dilated, I decided to try to get some rest and took 4 of the pills. I woke up soon after in full on transition and it progressed quickly… he was out within two hours.”
Glowing reviews like these may leave expecting mothers wanting to know more, especially when, according to the CDC, about 33 percent of them will have an unexpected emergency C-section birth. More common medicines like Pitocin, fentanyl, and morphine are common birth aids, and all have a ghastly assortment of side effects associated with them, ranging from fevers and headaches to stomach ulcers or nerve damage.
CBD is mostly legal across the U.S., though the rules can get confusing due—CBD sourced from cannabis is not legal everywhere, but CBD derived from hemp is. However, doctors and some midwives are reluctant to endorse or use it in birthing, and those who know that their patients used it suggest they not tell anyone to prevent a visit from Child Protective Services (CPS). This leaves mothers like Ruth afraid to even talk to their medical teams about it. “I kept it a secret from my midwife because I didn’t want to be viewed poorly,” she explained. CBD yields best results for pain management when used in conjunction with THC, but THC is not legal in every state and can be used to create biased cases.
Weighing the Risks
When CPS investigates a mom for using THC or any drug, they can take the baby away for a mandatory 72 hours. Kelley, who has experienced some pushback from within her community for being a mother working in the cannabis industry, is no stranger to CPS visits. “It totally messes up bonding and is a complete waste of taxpayer money. Nothing has ever happened with a kid who was exposed to THC and now has a brain problem. Show me the case.”
In addition to pain management during labor and delivery, pregnant moms are also considering CBD and THC for symptom relief, such as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), an uncommon, very severe version of morning sickness. Kate Middleton brought some attention to the plight when suffering from HG during her world-famous pregnancies. Maybe she, too, should have considered toking a jay, or chilling in a tub with a bath bomb. HG can cause women to become dehydrated and malnourished. CBD and THC offer therapy for such conditions without harmful side effects to the mother and rare, if any, side effects to the fetus during pregnancy. One study reported that cannabis can reduce oxygen in the blood flow, which could affect the fetus.
When High Times attempted to contact several OB-GYNs and midwives to get a professional medical opinion on using CBD and THC while pregnant or during labor, there was repeated red tape to navigate around. Inquiries were redirected or referred to supervisors numerous times, resulting in a dead end or no returned call. There was an admitted lack of knowledge of the laws, and plain old-fashioned bias against the use of cannabis. No doctor we spoke to would go on the record about using CBD and THC during labor. One anonymous OB-GYN might have been answering for most doctors when he stated, “I don’t know much about cannabis at all.” A labor ward nurse practitioner we briefly spoke to on a call to a delivery ward in the Philadelphia area said sternly, “We don’t tell our patients to use cannabis”.
With cannabis becoming legal in more and more places, it’s only a matter of time before the medical industry begins to re-consider investigating it as invaluable labor pain medication. In the meantime, mothers are taking their health into their own hands and treating themselves to bath bombs, cervical ointments, tinctures, distillate pills and more, hoping one day, some brave doctor will stand up for laboring women. It’s not only a legalization issue, it is a women’s rights issue. All mothers deserve to explore healthier, safer options for delivery with their medical team, including CBD and THC.