Becoming a mother for the first time is, of course, a life-changing experience, but change isn’t always easy to adapt to. The process can be stressful, tiring and even anxiety-inducing at times. For years and years, new moms have just had to grin and bear it, adapting to the realities of motherhood as best they can. But now, there’s a non-intoxicating cannabis compound called cannabidiol (CBD) that could help to make the transition into being a mother somewhat easier. But just what is CBD, what medicinal benefits does it have, and is it safe for new moms to take?
CBD: what is it, and how does it work?
CBD is part of a collection of compounds known as cannabinoids. These substances are mostly found in plants from the cannabis family, however recent research has shown us that cannabinoids aren’t quite exclusive to cannabis as was once believed. However, cannabinoids are rare and unusual compounds that have the ability to influence the body in a way that scientists were clueless about until the 1990s: through the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS is a major discovery for the future of medicine, as it has revealed a multitude of mechanisms that affect our psychological and physiological health. It just so happens that the endocannabinoids which work as neurotransmitters in the ECS bear such a chemical resemblance to the cannabinoids (or phytocannabinoids) found in cannabis, that they can help to rebalance the system if it has become dysregulated. The ECS plays an important role in keeping the body in a stable equilibrium, otherwise known as homeostasis.
Let’s look more closely at why having a balanced ECS can make life much more enjoyable in the early stages of motherhood.
CBD for stress
The immense weight of responsibility can make being a new mom a very stressful experience. Of course, alcohol, one of society’s most popular de-stressers, is not the most sensible tonic for a new mom. But CBD can help to relieve stress without having any negative impacts on cognitive function or memory.
How does it manage this? A recent study found that CBD helps to reduce levels of cortisol – a stress hormone – in the brain. The cannabinoid does this by affecting the rate of cortisol excretion in the adrenal gland. In a nutshell, CBD regulates cortisol so that it is only produced in concentrations which are beneficial for the body.
CBD for anxiety
None of the emotions that stem from anxiety are helpful for a new mom – there are enough things to be getting on with without becoming overwhelmed by exacerbated worries and doubts. The good news is that CBD is proving to be an extraordinarily effective remedy for anxiety, thanks to the interactions that the cannabinoid makes in the brain.
Anxiety occurs when the brain becomes overactive and starts sending too many signals – this is what causes the incessant overthinking, and sometimes random sequence of thoughts. The GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) helps to regulate anxiety in the body, alongside a myriad of other functions, such as vision and motor control. CBD essentially amplifies GABA by working as a positive allosteric modulator for the GABA-A receptor. This effect means that more GABA neurotransmitters are able to link with GABA-A receptors and reduce anxiety.
Researchers have been at a loss as to why CBD can be so therapeutic when it doesn’t bind directly with the main cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. However, this interaction with GABA may hold some answers.
Furthermore, CBD has the power to boost anandamide in the brain through its inhibition of the FAAH enzyme, which typically breaks down the endocannabinoid. Having higher concentrations of this potent antidepressant in the brain can deliver a nice mood boost, taking focus away from anxious thoughts.
CBD for insomnia and general lack of sleep
Sleepless nights are to be expected as a new mom, but having sleep regularly disrupted can be very harmful in the long run, as the body is unable to spend as much time in deep sleep which is important for neurological health. It is essential that cerebrospinal fluid in the brain gets a daily opportunity to remove neurotoxins from the organ which contribute to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.
CBD is a biphasic cannabinoid – it tends to have an uplifting effect in small doses but a sedative effect in larger doses. For those struggling to get to sleep, CBD is a much safer treatment than prescription sleeping tablets, which can be addictive and cause side effects of dizziness, drowsiness, constipation and more. CBD does not induce a mental “high” but relaxes the body and mind to make dozing off to sleep that much easier.
Anxiety and insomnia often goes hand-in-hand – just when sufferers of these conditions settle down to sleep, the mind has a habit of becoming swamped with negative thoughts that make it difficult for the brain and body to shut down.
CBD for overall wellbeing
We briefly touched on homeostasis earlier, and the endocannabinoid system has a huge job in ensuring the body stays in this state. And since it’s the role of CBD to regulate the endocannabinoid system, we can say that CBD products are helpful in promoting homeostasis and good overall wellbeing.
There are enough challenges to face as a new mom, and it’s crucial to take care of the factors that are within personal control. While mainstream science is yet to fully appreciate the ECS, it’s a powerful system that requires regulation, and this can be achieved through safe means.
Are there any risks for new moms taking CBD?
Indeed, with the World Health Organization’s comments that CBD poses no risk of abuse, it is a safe substance to experiment with. However, since CBD is not completely understood, there is a lack of scientific evidence on whether it’s appropriate to consume while breastfeeding. Interestingly, research has found that endocannabinoids contain breastmilk, meaning that CBD could affect this process.
Also, for those taking other medication, it’s worth checking with a cannabis-informed doctor how CBD may respond with it – the metabolization rate of some drugs is known to slow down when CBD is present.
But CBD will not cause the horrible side effects that comes from many strong prescription drugs, and plenty of new mothers are using the non-psychoactive chemical successfully to manage postnatal depression.
Stay within the law when using CBD
CBD is certainly garnering wider acceptance than the entire cannabis plant because of its non-psychoactive status. We have seen an embracement of CBD in the United States over recent years, and hemp-derived CBD products can be found all over the country. CBD stores in Europe are also popping up and continued growth of the industry seems a surety.
Singapore, however, is taking a slower approach to medical cannabis and CBD. But progress is coming. The National Research Foundation, which is operated by the Singaporean government, is researching the medical benefits of cannabinoids with a focus on developing synthetic compounds.
Please remember that the contents of this article are meant to be informative and educational – not a substitute for official medical advice. CBD is considered safe and non-addictive by the World Health Organization, but it’s best to consult a doctor before attempting to self-medicate.
Amila Gamage Wickramarachchi is the founder of this blog where she shares her parenting and lifestyle experiences. She is an engineer and a trainer who works in the construction industry. She is the founder of Sihela Consultants.(www.sihelaconsultants.com)